Washington, July 13 (ANI): New findings from a Field Museum (Chicago) excavation team has confirmed that pre-Hispanic Zapotec rulers carried around human femurs, or thigh bones, as a symbol of power and legitimacy.
Scientists had earlier found evidence of this theory from a carved lintel at the site of Lambityeco, where a ruler is depicted with a femur in his hand.
Now, a Field Museum excavation team has confirmed that they did remove femurs from earlier graves and that this custom may have been widely practiced by heads of households outside of the ruling class.
The missing femur was located in an early adobe cist internment, circa 500 AD, that lay under an excavated house at the Mitla Fortress, in the Valley of Oaxaca, some 322 miles southeast of Mexico City.
While excavating this residential terrace, or house lot, the Museum team found a total of 16 burials that include 21 individuals.
The systematic excavations are the largest ever conducted at this site well known to archaeologists for more than 150 years.
Field Museum Curator of Mesoamerican Anthropology, Gary Feinman, and Adjunct Curator of Anthropology, Linda Nicholas, are analyzing the burial sample and other finds from the Mitla Fortress.
The Fortress is less than two miles west of Mitla, which is indigenously known as the "Place of the Dead."
Although this ancient Zapotec custom of bearing a femur of a corpse has long been recognized, the excavated burial provides clear evidence of the re-opening of an earlier burial in order to remove a bone.
The evidence could further reveal that this bone-carrying custom may apply beyond rulers - since the excavated house is not a ruler's residence.
Field Museum archaeologists hope to excavate a more elaborate house in the future to gain more perspective. (ANI)