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Go to page: When Merle Greene Robertson and Khristaan Villela came to Old Chichen in June, 2000, they were expecting to rub a few new relief sculptures that archaeologist Peter Schmidt of the Chichen Itza Project had discovered. They remembered Old Chichen from previous visits as a comparatively minor and little-visited area of the site. This photograph shows the approach to the Initial Series Group in 1998. The dark area at the end of the path is the doorway of the Temple of the Phalli.
Go to page: And here is the entrance to the Initial Series Group as Merle and Khristaan saw it in June of 2000.
Go to page: It was as if a gleaming new city had sprung up in the jungle, thanks to the efforts of the Chichen Itza Project and Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).
Go to page: Back in 1998, the carved hieroglyphic lintel with the Intial Series date which gives the Intial Series Group its name was dutifully born aloft by its patient atlantids on top of a rather forelornly desolate mound.
Go to page: Now it perches atop a true pyramid, adjacent to a substantial structure (not depicted) that has arisen from the rubble just to the right of what was once the humble entrance to the building complex.
Go to page: Also new is this wonderment, a platform in the shape of a giant turtle. With all this work going on, Old Chichen can't be opened to the public quite yet. The Chichen Itza Project hopes you understand and asks your patience.
Go to page: Arqueologist José Osorio, field supervisor for the Chichen Itza Project, was on hand to show Merle and Khristaan the new discoveries.
Go to page: Here is the entrance to the Temple of the Phalli and the interior courtyard of the Phallic Cluster. (This was the dark spot in the first photograph. In 1998 the only standing architecture was immediately surrounding the doorway.)
Go to page: On the facade to the left of the doorway is a carved stone relief panel.
Go to page: It depicts two Pawahtuuns. The one of the left is emerging from a shell, while the one on the right is in a spider web.
Go to page: Pawahtuuns (and B'akab's) seem to be everywhere at Chichen Itza. Based on an observation to this effect by Merle several years ago, Linda Schele and Peter Mathews suggested in Code of Kings that they were the patron deities of the site in ancient times. Here is another Pawahtuun from another panel that will be assembled and restored to the facade of the Temple of the Phalli.
Go to page: And here is another. There are five sculptural panels altogether, counting the one in situ. It is said in the books of Chilam B'alam that in their migrations, the Itza brought the Pawahaekuh as their gods.
Go to page: Around the corner from the Temple of the Phalli and forming part of the same complex is the Temple of the Caracols. Together the structures surround a patio, one entrance to which was through the doorway of the Temple of the Phalli that we saw in previous photographs. Another was between the atlantids seen at the right here. This entire complex is being restored.
Go to page: The Temple of the Caracols takes its name from the shells that project and hang down from its medial molding, seen here over a doorway lintel.
Go to page: Creatures emerge from the shells.
Go to page: The upper zone of the temple was entirely covered by a sculptured relief, which is in the process of being fully restored. The primary motif is curling vines from which cacao and other abundance sprouts, nourishing descending birds and other creatures.
Go to page: Warriors with bird masks emerge from eggs or the root bulbs of the vines.
Go to page: On the corners of the structure are "Chaak" masks. These have been more properly identified as depictions of Itzam-Yeej by Schele and Mathews. Peter Schmidt suggests that in some cases they may also represent lineage ancestors.
Go to page: Other parts of the relief remain on the ground, waiting to be reassembled and restored to the facade. Here one of the birds takes nourishment.
Go to page: And here, with a similar beak, is one of the human figures emerging from a fruit or bulb.
Go to page: It looks as though the vines emerge from the element at the bottom in this photograph. (The block casting a shadow is not in its proper place. The missing elements of this, the center of the relief panel, have not been found yet, but may depict a seated lord.)
Go to page: Peter Schmidt and the Chichen Itza Project are meticulously documenting everything they find in drawings. But Peter was also anxious to have rubbings made by the world's foremost expert, since they reveal so much. His vision is to have a complete inventory of Chichen Itza's iconography, so that meaningful comparisons may be drawn between individual complexes, such as this lineage compound in Old Chichen and the site as a whole.
Go to page: Merle explains why the complete set of rubbings for such a huge new find will have to wait until January. She tells José, Rocío Gonzáles and Khristaan the amusing story of how she broke her arm in the Mexico City airport.
Go to page: Meanwhile, Peter Schmidt continues to make new finds. Here he fits the tail to the sculpture of a monkey, fresh out of the ground, found just opposite the Temple of the Caracols.
Go to page: Monkeys decorated the medial molding of the structure in the background, just as shells did that of the Temple of the Caracols and turtles that of the adjacent Temple of the Owls.
Go to page: Peter Schmidt is being scrupulous in recording the context of everything that he finds, uniquely so in the history of archaeology at Chichen Itza. Ceramics are vitally important in this regard, since they provide the best hope of one day solving the mystery of whether the site was once conquered by Toltecs from Central Mexico, as some believe. Here ceramicist Eduardo Perez de Heredia shows fragments to Merle and Khristaan in the laboratory.
Go to page: The key, as Eduardo and Peter Schmidt both realize, is proper control of the finds. Here Eduardo shows his meticulous system of organization.
Go to page: Project artists document everything. Given his success with the stone blocks from the relief tablets and countless ceramic restorations, Peter Schmidt must be one of the world's champion puzzle-solvers.
Go to page: Merle and Khristaan decide to start the rubbings with the Temple of the Owls. Here is a mask from one of its corners, with some of the turtles that decorated its sides.
Go to page: Fortunately Merle and Khristaan will have the help of Peter Mathews, who is able to change his travel plans to come to the rescue. Peter is shown here with the first relief sculpture to be rubbed, one of the jambs of the temple.
Go to page: The first step of the procedure is to cover the surface of the stone with special paper made in Japan.
Go to page: Then part of the paper is wet down with water. Only a portion is dampened, owing to the tricky nature of the rubbing procedure. If the paper is dry, it cannot be pushed into the lower surface of the relief sculpture. If it is wet, the ink will run when it is applied.
Go to page: Now the pushing-in begins, using a wad of cloth. It is arduous labor.
Go to page: As the paper is forced in to the "negative space", the raised relief is revealed. Care must be taken not to tear the paper by forcing it too far into the background areas.
Go to page: While the first portion is still being pushed in, the next is wet down. Care must be taken not to re-wet the first portion, so that it will be dry enough to ink.
Go to page: The top portion is now dry enough for ink to be applied at the edges, where the danger of it running is less signficant.
Go to page: Now the ink goes on in earnest, while the area below is still being pushed in.
Go to page: The rubbing reveals numerous cacao pods.
Go to page: Merle continues to ink. Note that she is able to do this using her left hand.
Go to page: The finished rubbing reveals what Merle refers to as a puppy-dog house at the bottom. Peter suggests that a sculpture of a snake's head probably protruded here, attached by a tenon through the hole. Above one can make out the curl of the snake's scaly tail.
Go to page: Now the paper is removed from the stone...
Go to page: ...and set out to dry.
Go to page: Another rubbing is begun.
Go to page: With so much to do, only a start can be made on this trip. But one important contribution to Maya studies is this rubbing of Stela 1. The technique brings out the image of the fantastical bird on top, and it will help the epigraphers decipher the hieroglyphics.