|Warrior Lord - stone decorative block on the Popul Na, the War Council House, North Acropolis.|
|The Battle for Blue Bird House:Yaxuná in Yucatan
Why Yaxuná? In the mid-80s David Freidel had finished up field work at Cerros in Belize and on the island of Cozumel. He was looking for an interesting new project that he and his students at Southern Methodist University could research. In conversation with Mexican archaeologists his attention came to bear on the little known city site of Yaxuná in the heart of the Yucatan.
In the late 1940s and early '50s, UC Berkeley archaeologist, George Brainerd, had surveyed the site and reported a mix of ceramics from the east and west coasts of Yucatan, specifically from Cobá and from the Puuc region of cities respectively. Strangely, although Yaxuná stands just 20 kilometers south of Chichén Itzá, Brainerd found no Sotuta ceramics that are diagnostic of that famous city. In fact, very few Sotuta ceramics have been uncovered at Yaxuná, a small mystery that, after several field seasons of excavation, finally fits into an explanation of the city's history.
So, Yaxuná seemed to have been at the focus of interest for the eastern and western Yucatan hegemonies; it presented many large monumental buildings; it was a very old city, dating to the Middle Preclassic era; and where were those Sotuta/Chichén Itzá ceramics? Thus, Yaxuná presented many intriguing questions to research. The search for answers could perhaps throw a powerful light on the geopolitics and histories of ancient Maya cities in Yucatan. Gaining permission from the Instituto Nacional de Antopologia e Historia(INAH), the Mexican ministry that oversees all archaeology in the country, David Freidel decided to work at Yaxuná. And to work at Yaxuná meant, among other things, to talk with the Maya people there and propose to work together on the land and in the ruins cared for and owned by Yaxuná village.
The Village. Near the large cenote located on the western edge of the ancient ruins, 400 Maya people live in the modern town of Yaxuná. They make a living the old fashioned way: they grow maize. Following an ancient farming system, they choose a plot of forest that has lain fallow for 20 years, and in the dry season they cut down and burn the 30-40 foot trees, and in the ashes, at the start of the rainy season, they plant corn seed mixed with squashes and beans. Then they pray that the rain falls consistently from the monsoonal thunderheads of the peninsula. If all goes well, they have corn flour throughout the coming year.
Since the beginning of the archaeology project however the village has an added source of income. The villagers work in the excavations and the field research lab. Learning the techniques and methods of modern excavation, they have become good archaeologists. Some have become careful and skilled excavators of the ancient burials while others are learning the mason's craft of restoration and consolidation of the ancient buildings.
In its relations with the village, the project adheres to the old, consensus form of Maya government and meets regularly with their representatives. Much conversation is required to agree on work and other arrangements and smooth out occasional problems or anxieties that arise.
The Selz Foundation Standing behind the project work of the archaeologists and Maya villagers is the Bernard Selz Foundation. The foundation funds the annual field season, the administration, and the research and scientific reports of the project.
The North Acropolis. This large platform holds a triad of pyramidal structures, 6F-2 to the west, 6F-3 to the north, and 6F-4 to the east. The foundations of these buildings probably date to the Late Preclassic. (See papers: "Excavations at the 6F-3 Locality" & "Excavations at the 6F-4 Locality")
In the Terminal Classic, onto the south face of 6F-4, conquerors from the Puuc appended a decorated building, the so-called War Council House. This building was the focus of a Termination Ritual by the forces of Chichén Itzá when they conquered and destroyed the city. On a central pier jutting out to the south of the main platform, stands a small building with Sotuta/Chichén Itzá ceramics. We deem this a Chichén Itzá victory monument. Probably in service until the last desperate hours, a siege wall also surrounds the entire platform.
The Yaxuná ballcourt lies 100 meters to the south of the acropolis platform directly on the centerline of both the acropolis triad and the entire ceremonial precinct.
At Structure 6F-68 the project excavated its most compelling evidence for Termination Ritual at the site. The excavation of Structure 6F-68dubbed the Popul Na or War Council House by virtue of the decorative pattern of war council iconographyrevealed a ritual pattern of interior burning, burned offerings, smashed water vessels, and a deliberate & technical dismantling of this highly symbolic building. (See paper: "Termination Ritual" & "Maya Warfare, Myth & Reality")
The Southern GroupsThe old, Preclassic center of Yaxuná lies in the southern groups of triad pyramids. Here, Structure 5E-19 stood in Preclassic times as the highest building north of the imperial Peten city, El Mirador. From 1990 to 1994, David Freidel and Traci Ardren undertook several excavations of pyramidal buildings to find the early history of Yaxuná.
(the annual field reports will be available by December 1998)