Bizarre Spiral of Arm-Linked Human Skeletons Found in Mexico Baffles Scientists
It's not uncommon for excavated human remains to provide us with a glimpse of what the person was doing during their time of death. It's far more unusual, however, for the discovery to open up a mystery that baffles researchers like this.
Ten human skeletons, bones aged 2,400 years, were found lying on their sides in a circle in an ancient burial pit south of Mexico City, on the grounds of Pontifical University of Mexico, with arms interlocked. The "sprial of human bones" consisted of mostly adolescent skeletons, with one adult, one toddler and one young infant also in the group. The National Institute of Anthropology and History, or INAH, says this is the first time that any such formation has ever been discovered.
While researchers can't yet determine the causes of death of these villagers or if they are in any way related, all specialists agree that the way in which they were buried suggests a ritual aspect. The bodies were linked so that the humerus and ulna, or arm bones of one skeleton, appeared under the lumbar of another.
"We have different anatomical depositions: ventral flexion, hyperflexion with the lower limbs bent towards the pelvis, dorsal decubitus with the limbs towards the abdomen, and extended ventral decubitus," said anthropologist Lucía López Mejía. "The bodies were buried 'interacting' between them, that's why we talked about the same event."
The dating of these bones suggests the people lived during Mexico's Pre-Classical period, predating the Aztec Empire that wouldn't come to power until around the 16th century. The burial was likely associated with Tlalpan, an ancient village in the area that existed for around 500 years.
Also found with the bodies were earthenware pots and bowls, or cajetes and tecomates. Some bodies were also found clutching stones or ceramic spheres. Other bodies showed a ritualistic, deliberate deformation of skull shape and teeth, which was not uncommon among indigenous cultures of the time.
"[Archeologist] Jimena Rivera says that two years ago she had the opportunity to direct the archaeological rescue at number 185 on Benito Juárez Street, where another section of the pre-classical village of Tlalpan was located, which possibly had its beginnings around 800 BC, in the phase Tetelpan," says the statement. "These dates start from the ceramics associated to these contexts and that has been widely documented, so there is no doubt that this is a rural domestic unit of the Formative period, with its habitation and burial areas."
Divers also discovered the oldest human skeleton in the world while plundering the depths of the San Actun underwater cave system off Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, which now the longest in the world.
The most similar finding to this "spiral of human bones" might be a pair of human skeletons found at the "Lost" Chapel of St Morrell in Leicestershire. They were holding hands for 700 years.