Expedition News – Summer 1960

Originally Published in 1960

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Leptis Magna

The Spring issue of EXPEDITION described a lack of success in the first attempts to locate a Phoenician level in the immediate area of the presumed harbor of the Romans and the Phoenicians before them. As the work progressed from April 26 to May 8 all of the trenches around this harbor and the sea front ultimately produced either massive Roman structures or the local water table. Then in a last nearly desperate drive to at least verify the existence of the suspected Punic colony, a series of sondages or small round vertical shafts, were sunk at the very edges of the earliest part of the Roman city. The sondage on the fringe of the First Century B.C. Forum revelaed the substantial walls of a probable public building of typical Phoenicio-Punic construction. The associated pottery made it possible to assign a date at least as early as 600 B.C.

Although the reconnaissance expedition is officially over, some exploratory digging continues along the lines of the walls in hopes both of establishing the dimensions of the building and recovering more datable material. Heretofore very few Punic buildings have been scientifically excavated. Since the Museum excavators have located the major early Punic settlement at Leptis, it may be possible to expose a section not covered by valued Roman monuments and thus make a material contribution to the history of Phoenician colonization and Early Iron Age culture in the Western Mediterranean.


Edwin M. Shook, Director of the Tikal Project, writes that the 1960 field season has been the most productive one to date. Highlights have been the discovery of three richly stocked tombs of important personages, another magnificent stela (Stela 31) of early date, a heroic-sized rock sculpture, and the remains of a Pre-Classic temple deeply buried beneath the North Acropolis.

He reports that one of the three tombs, Burial 23, below the Structure 5D-33, was the first large Late Classic Period burial to be found in Tikal. The burial chamber was dug as a long, rectangular pit into bedrock. The pit walls were roughly plastered, then the floor was covered with textiles from wall to wall. A wooden litter bearing the body was lowered to the center of the pit floor and at least two jaguar skins covered the litter under the body. The body of the young man, evidently in his late ‘teens, lay extended, head to the north, with his arms folded over his chest. He had evidently been painted with cinnabar from head to foot and probably had Spondylus shells attached to different parts of his clothing. A sponge cushion lay under his head, as well as a bit of seaweed. Coral, a stingray spine, fish vertebrae, and small shells were also around the head. The upper front teeth were inlaid with disks of iron pyrites and brilliantly polished jade, and he wore a multiple-strand necklace of jade, pearl, and shell beads, interspersed with two magnificently carved jade pendants–one with incised glyphs on the back. Across his stomach were hundreds of small tubular and flat jade beads, apparently from a beaded ornament. On each side of the head were two small jade flares, each with a shell backing and a pearl bead in the front. These were the ear ornaments. Over the body and the litter had been laid mats which protected them from the falling wet plaster, masons’ tools, and plumb-bob as the Maya were adding the vault over the rock pit.

Twelve pottery vessels rested on a bench at the north end and were not covered with mats, so that the plaster splashed them much as if one stood under a plasterer or painter today. The tomb vault was built up and then capstones were added, with the last apparently being the center capstone, which was smoothed with plaster and painted with a large red cinnabar dot. Several layers of flint and obsidian chips were added as the fill was built up over the capstones of the tomb, and construction of the next pyramid and temple followed immediately.

Cite This Article

"Expedition News – Summer 1960." Expedition Magazine 2, no. 4 (July, 1960): -. Accessed April 18, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/expedition/expedition-news-summer-1960/

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