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WO THOUSAND YEARS AGO, XALTOCON WAS A GREEN ISLAND IN THE MIDDLE OF A BROAD BLUE LAKE. THE VILLAGERS DREDGED THE BOTTOM, PILING UP SILT TO CREATE ROOM FOR HOUSING AND SOME OF THE MOST FERTILE FARMLAND ON EARTH. THEY KEPT IT IN PRODUCTION THROUGHOUT THE YEAR THANKS TO SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE PRACTICES. WHEN THE SPANIARDS ARRIVED IN FORCE, THEY DRAINED THE LAKE AND KILLED 95 PERCENT OF THE NATIVE POPULATION.

Xaltocan resident Polo Arellano lives just up the street from the church, past the bodega and across the street from the school. Last year, after a rainstorm, the old fig tree in Arellano’s garden fell over, revealing the walls of an ancient home. He had worked for archaeologists before, so he invited De Lucia and her colleagues to conduct an impromptu dig in his backyard. Under the wall, among the vases, bowls, and statuettes, Post and UT grad students find the body of a child. The evidence suggests that this young person died circa 1200. Like so many who never made it to adulthood in Xaltocan, the child was carefully buried beneath the walls of its house. Its parents scooped out the dirt and clay at the bottom, carefully placed the body inside, and resealed the void. Regardless of how long this burial process originally took, removing the child will take all day. Before starting their work, the archaeologists build a small stone shrine at the edge of the trench and light a candle. Burial excavations go straight down, following the contours of the grave. Forget the width of the trench. If they stick to that protocol, researchers might mix artifacts from various time periods and defeat the purpose of the layering process. Discomforts of the job: long hours on your knees and wearing latex gloves for extended periods of time in 85-degree heat. 38

scene: Autumn 2017

Autumn Scene 2017  
Autumn Scene 2017  

The Scene is published by Colgate University four times a year — in autumn, winter, spring, and summer.