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Decline of an Empire Seen in Zapotec Thighbones (good one)

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posted on Jan, 4 2011 @ 11:39 PM

A newly excavated Zapotec burial site has yielded a fresh interpretation of the ancient, grisly Mesoamerican custom of removing thighbones from the dead. Across pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica, femurs were believed to contain an individual’s power. Aztecs treated them as war trophies, while Zapotec royalty are thought to have used them like sceptres, as symbols of ancestral political might.

The new excavation, in a relatively humble residential dwelling in the ancient city of Mitla, suggests that ancestral thighbone-wielding “may not have been a practice limited to rulers,” wrote researchers led by Field Museum archaeologist Gary Feinman in a study published in December in Antiquity. Thighbone customs of the Zapotec civilization, which reigned from the late 6th century BC to the early 16th century in what is now the Oaxaca valley of Mexico, are best known from a pair of burial sites.

The first, a 16th-century tomb in the city of Monte Alban that was excavated in the 1930s, yielded the remains of nine individuals, along with three extra femurs. These had been cut and painted, suggesting Aztec-style trophy use. In the 1970s, another 16th-century tomb was excavated, this time in the smaller city of Lambityeco. It was part of a palatial residence, clearly occupied by rulers, six of whom had been buried there — but only three of their thighbones remained. The rest were missing.

Friezes on the wall depicted men holding what appeared to be femurs, giving rise to the interpretation of thighbones as scepters. Subsequent burial excavations have supported this hypothesis, but the sites have tended to be poorly preserved, with skeletons missing many bones.


I thought this piece was extremely interesting. I have never heard of this concept before. Anyone?

I think it makes sense. The Femur being big and without it-----you can't stand-making it extremely important. I guess taking it from an enemy could have been considered Okay by their standards.

That thought, combined with the thought of the poor soul/victim being alive when it happened.... ugh...

Well, something learned new everyday ....

Thoughts from our resident pros in this topic area? You others?

I think that 2nd pic is very interesting. Man I wish I could go back in time and get some answers...

posted on Jan, 5 2011 @ 04:51 AM
I posted this before I went to bed last night-and after a lot of disscussion about the topic around the home here.

Not a good idea I guess.

I had a short but gross sceen playout in my head.

I'll just say I am glad I am alive today instead of then-and being a victim of the thigh bone loss.

posted on Jan, 5 2011 @ 06:15 AM
Whereas I don't see the decline of an empire with the removal of femurs...
I see early cultures using them for weapons.

The protruding ball on a femur makes a formidable weapon.
A hard, round, hammer-like object on the end of a 24" handle.

The perfect weapon without any craftsmanship.

posted on Jan, 9 2011 @ 07:25 AM
How do they know the frieze depicts a femur and not a phallus? Practically everything phallic in ancient times was an actual phallus.

Femurs are also good for brewing up some soup stock. Considering the less-than-stellar human rights records of Mesoamerican civilization, I would not be surprised if this find displayed the decay of an empire through the increasing need to eat the dead.
edit on 9-1-2011 by SmedleyBurlap because: (no reason given)

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