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Archaeologists explore the underworld of Mitla – “The Place of the Dead”

A team of archaeologists from the Project Lyobaa is conducting a new study to explore the underworld of the archaeological zone of Mitla.

Mitla is an archaeological site associated with the Zapotec culture, located in the Oaxaca Valley in the present-day state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico.

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Mitla was first inhabited by the Zapotec during the Classic Period (AD 100-650), having first developed from a fortified village into a large religious centre.

The Zapotec believed that Mitla served as a gateway between the world of the living and the world of the dead for the burial of Zapotec elite, with the Nahuatl name Mictlán, meaning the “place of the dead” or “underworld.”

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Image Credit : Aleksandar Todorovic

The site consists of five main groups of structures built on the valley floor—Grupo de las Columnas (Columns Group), Grupo de las Iglesias (Churches Group), Grupo del Arroyo (Arroyo Group), Grupo de los Adobes (Adobe Group), and Grupo del Sur (Southern Group).

As part of a new study by Project Lyobaa, in support by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), researchers are using geophysical prospection techniques to confirm the existence of previously undetected underground chambers and passageways beneath Mitla.

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The team will be applying ground-penetrating radar, subsurface electrical resistivity tomography and seismic noise refraction tomography for identifying cavities and underground spaces such as tunnels or tombs, as well as to support the conservation of the area through mapping and the prevention of seismic risk.

INAH Archaeologist Denisse Argote Espino said: “They are complementary technologies. GPR sends waves underground; electrical tomography studies changes in the electrical properties of bodies below the surface; and seismic noise reduction tomography analyses how and with what speed sound travels”.

INAH

Header Image Credit : Leonardo Em

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
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