University of Calgary
UofC Navigation


Submitted by mccaffer on Fri, 03/07/2008 - 3:05pm

By Geoffrey McCafferty (2008)

The skeletal remains of 19 individuals were recovered during the UA-1 excavations (Figure 45). Analysis of the skeletal material was performed at the Departamento de Antropologia Fisica of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, under the direction of Dr. Arturo Romano. Information was recorded for burial position, orientation, age, and sex. Where skeletal pathologies or intentional deformities were present, this was also noted, with the classification of cranial deformation derived from Imbelloni (Dembo and Imbelloni 1938; see also Romano 1973). A summary of these results was included in Wolfman's preliminary site report (1968:Table 4; adapted here as Table 6), and a brief description of the burials appeared in the INAH Boletín in 1968 (Volume #33, pp. 55-56, 83).


Figure 45: Map of UA-1, showing burial locations

Eighteen individuals were found in the Structure 1 compound, although only one can be directly linked to the occupational context of the structure. Seventeen were primary burials (with anatomical articulation between bones suggesting that the burial took place while soft tissues were still intact), while two (Burials #13 and #14) were secondary (i.e., lacking anatomical articulation).

Burial position was recorded as it corresponded to the system described by Romano (1974). In all cases where position could be determined (n=13) the burials were placed in a flexed position. Eight were seated and flexed in the position usually attributed to a wrapped mummy-bundle, similar to that depicted in pre-Columbian painted manuscripts. In the five cases where the burial position was either ventrally or dorsally flexed, the bodies may have shifted from a seated position either as the result of the burial process or decay (Wolfman 1968:32). Of the five cases for which burial position could not be determined,



(after Wolfman 1968:Table 4)


Burial # Unit Depth Orientation Position Age

#1 S8/E1 44 --- --- fetus

2 S8/E1 44 --- --- fetus

3 S3/E2 41 north SF infant

4 N2/W1 41 north SF adult

5 " 47 northwest DF child

6 " 51 east DF child

7 " 63 north SF child

8 N1/E1 75 north SF child

9 S6/W3 54 north SF child

10 " 45 north DF infant

11 N2/W1 87 north DF infant

12 " 87 northeast VF child

13 --- surface --- --- adult

14 S6/W3 50 north SF infant

15 S8/E1 44 --- --- fetus

16 S6/W3 69 north SF infant

17 " 51 ? SF child

18 S5/W3 66 ? ? infant

19 S2/W1 62 north SF child

Position: SF = seated flexed; DF = dorsal flexed;

VF = ventral flexed




three were fetuses placed in a single bowl, and two were secondary burials.

In the original analysis of burial orientation, the orientation was described as the relationship of the skull to the body. This method for determining orientation differs from that used by López A., Lagunas R. and Serrano S. (1976:21-22) for their analysis of the burials from the Proyecto Cholula. They based the orientation of seated individuals on the orientation of the upper part of the trunk, or essentially the direction that the individual was facing at the time of burial. Wolfman (1968:32) notes that in most cases the body faced north. For comparison with the other burial data from Cholula, I have corrected the original orientation to correspond with the criteria suggested by López A., Lagunas R, and Serrano S. (1976). The revised orientation is based on burial photos and drawings (when available).

Three single burials and three groups of multiple burials (totalling an additional 15 individuals) were found. One remaining individual, Burial #13, was represented by a single adult mandible found on the surface prior to excavation.

Burial #3 was an infant (age less than one year) buried in a flexed seated position oriented to the north. This burial was located in Area C, just south of the exterior wall of Structure 1, in a level of fallen wall material. The burial was badly disturbed, possibly as the result of wall collapse after interment, and there was evidence of burning. Possible burial offerings included a large bowl rim found beneath the burial but mixed with bricks, one piece of obsidian (UA-1 #9740), and a copper ring with a filigree design of an anthropomorphic face (UA-1 #9610).

Burial #8 was a young child (age 4-6 years) buried in a flexed seated position oriented to the north (Figure 46). The individual showed evidence of tabular erect cranial



Figure 46. Burial #8

deformation. The burial was located under the southeast corner of Room #4 of Structure 1, where it was placed in a pit that had been dug through the stucco floor before the construction of the overlying wall. Minimal field notes were found relating to this burial, recording that sherd bags #8229 and #8447 and an obsidian blade (UA-1 #10623) were recovered in association.

Burial #19 was a young child (age 4-6 years) buried in a flexed seated position oriented to the north. This was the only skeleton that showed evidence of a pathological disease, with a probable infectious process on both the humerus and radius at the elbow. The skull was found at the intersection of two adobe walls in Unit S2/W1, above the floor level. Several objects were found in the same area as the burial, but it is unclear if they should be associated as offerings. These included a piece of carved bone (UA-1 #11277), a polishing stone (UA-1 #11278), and a white chert projectile point (UA-1 #11276).

Burials #1, #2, and #15 were fetuses buried together in a single policroma firme (Torre Polychrome) bowl (UA-1 #9217). The bowl was found in association with a large quantity and variety of artifacts from the trash midden (described in Section 4.2.1). It is unclear if the burial was directly associated with the midden deposit, or if it was intrusive and therefore post-dated the feature.

Burials #4, #5, #6, #7, #11, and #12 were located in a hole that had been dug through the stucco floor in Room #4, immediately east of the main structural wall (Figure 47). The burials appear to have occurred in two episodes, based on different levels of interment relative to the stucco floors, and the presence of an architectural feature separating the burials. Burials #4, #5, #6, and #7 were all located within a small adobe burial chamber (Figures 48-50).





Figure 47. Plan of Burials #4, #5, #6, #7, #11, and #12




Figure 48. Photo of Burials #4, #5, #6, and #7




Figure 49. Detail of Burial #7





Figure 50. Detail of Burials #7 and #4

An opening (approximately 20 cm wide) on the east side of the chamber wall led to the area where Burials #11 and #12 were found (Figure 51). Burials #4, #5, #6, and #7 ranged from 41 to 63 cm below the surface, as measured from the highest point on each skeleton. These uppermost bones were above the floor level of Structure 1 and therefore these individuals were probably interred after the abandonment of Structure 1.

A 3 cm thick layer of carbon covered the floor of the burial chamber at a depth of 90 cm below the surface. Numerous objects were found in association with the burials, with most of the offerings associated with Burials #4 and




Figure 51. Detail of Burial #12

#7. Objects included several beads (including #10239 that was probably located in the mouth of Burial #7), a ceramic ball, a light blue-green stone celt (UA-1 #9839), several shells found with Burial #7 (including UA-1 #10199, a cowry with a stucco covering, and UA-1 #10225, a shell whistle), two obsidian eccentrics (i.e., worked into a curvilinear design) found with Burial #7 (including UA-1 #10246, a piece of red obsidian worked into the shape of a butterfly, and UA-1 #10222, trilobal eccentric in the shape of an "m"), an "Aztec I" (Cocoyotla Black on Natural) bowl (UA-1 #10147) buried under the right scapula of Burial #4, and a concentration of red seeds (UA-1 #9943) found near the skull of Burial #4. Additionally, a chert point (UA-1 #9704), an obsidian scraper (UA-1 #9703), a spindle whorl (UA-1 #9710) and a figurine head (UA-1 #9711) were all found at the same level as the skulls, but these were collected before the burial feature had been identified and so the association is unclear.

Burials #9, #10, #14, #16, #17 and #18 were buried together near the east side of the adobe wall that was separate from, but aligned with, the main north/south wall of Structure 1. The burials were associated with a layer of "clay-like ash" immediately above a floor of hard-packed yellow soil 72 cm below the surface. The field notes suggested that the burials were placed through collapsed adobe wall material, but before the complete collapse of the wall.

Two of the burials (#17 and #18) were interred inside an olla (UA-1 #11122) (Figure 52), with an obsidian blade and several large potsherds (Bag #8654). Bowls were also found with Burials #9, #10 and #16 (UA-1 #10786, #10967 and #11247, respectively; Figures 53 and 54), and two large sherds (Bag #8496) were associated with Burial #14. Numerous other objects were found associated with the burials, particularly a high frequency of obsidian blades and scrapers, two projectile points (UA-1 #10007 and #10608), two figurines (UA-1 #10547 and #11272), a spindle whorl (UA-1 #11273), and numerous ceramic balls.



Figure 52. Burials #17 and #18




Figure 53. Detail of Burial #16




Figure 54. Detail of Burial #9 with associated vessel

The 19 human burials from UA-1 add to a growing burial population from Cholula that now totals over 1000 individuals (Romero 1937; Castro M. and Garcia Moll 1972; Lopez A., Lagunas R., and Serrano S. 1976; Suarez C. 1990). The majority of these burials pertain to either the Postclassic or the immediate Contact period, and therefore the corpus is well-suited for comparative studies. In Section 5.2, the UA-1 burial data is contrasted with burial data from Cholula as well as other Postclassic sites.

Site Admin