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Naranjo, Central Highlands

Monument 3 and altar 1

Naranjo is one of the earliest Sites in The Ermita Valley, in the Central Highlands, were Guatemala City lies, located very near to Kaminaljuy˙. The site of Naranjo has an occupation that may start around 1000 BC. The oldest pottery at the site corresponds to what has been defined as the ArÚvalo and Las Charcas phases (Shook and Hatch 1999). Some of the early ceramic modes identified at Naranjo have an intimate relationship with modes from the Pacific Coast. Among these, there are large hollow tripod supports that resemble the traditional Ocˇs tecomates from the Early Formative on the coast. The presence of red slips on the interior jar rims is a mode similar to the red bands on the Locona and Ocˇs ceramics on the coast. Another ceramic mode is the zoned punctuated decoration in some of the jars. A significant number of globular shaped tecomates have also been recovered, some of which have a band of red slip on the exterior.   Note: to see the Classification phases and timeline of ceramics in the area go to Kaminaljuy˙.

Red on Buff ceramic fragment with early representation of God1

Red on Buff polychrome ceramic fragment with representation of Olmec dragon

Monument 27 showing carving

Naranjo is the Central Highlands site with the most plain monuments reported up to date (Pereira et al. 2007). So far, 27 monuments have been recovered. These include plain stelas and altars. One of the plain columnar stelas  measures 3.5 m in height. Shook reported a series of sites nearby Naranjo, including Cruz to the east, Bran and Guacamaya to the west, Betania to the south, and Aycinena, Rodeo, Cruz de Cotiˇ and Ross to the southeast (Shook 1952). Most of these sites have long disappeared under modern buildings and little is known of their settlement.  The stela/altar concept appearing in Middle Preclassic time may suggest a different meaning of this cultural manifestation from that interpreted for later periods. It is possible that these monument complexes were used for calendrical purpose, rather than honoring or related to linages. Because of this, only certain monuments had altars at Naranjo. All monuments on line 1 had a thin clay floor associated, corresponding to the same surface for all of them, indicating a contemporaneous use.

Mound 1

Very close to Naranjo, to the southeast is the site of Rosario-Naranjo, (also known as Tulam Tzu) one that has had several rescue projects (Foncea 1989, Jacobo and Grignon 1991; Jacobo 1992; Escobar and Alvarado 2004). It is believed that this was a larger site than Naranjo with Middle Preclassic occupation, including five original mounds and various plain monuments. Away from the city, several reports of Las Charcas occupations have been documented. Piedra Parada, San JosÚ Pinula, and Canchˇn, near Fraijanes, to the east of the city, have been referred by Shook as having a dense Middle Preclassic occupation (Shook 1952).

The siteĺs arrangement includes a spatial organization oriented north-south, a feature typical of the Early Preclassic sites from the area. The site itself is surrounded by ravines and various water springs where small streams flow. Water was readily available, and probably the reason why this location was selected in Preclassic times. To the east of the main structure, Mound 1, there is a natural hill. The space between Mound 1 and the natural hill had a leveled surface with three parallel lines of stone monuments aligned north-south.

The site center consists of Mound 1 and 2, and the Northern and Southern platforms. Mound 1 and the platforms are lined north-south. The Southern Platform was a natural elevation modified to hold the prehispanic activities that took place in the area during Las Charcas phase. Mound 1 was built during Las Charcas phase but modified during Providencia times. Mound 2 and the Northern Platform were built during the latter part of the Middle Preclassic, during Providencia times. Mound 3, on the northernmost limit of the site, dates to Providencia and continues the same building pattern from the Northern Platform and Mound 2.

Mound 2

The Providencia phase ceramics has many similarities with the Conchas phase manifestations at La Blanca and the Sis and Guatolˇn phases on the Escuintla coast of Guatemala. Without a doubt, and considering the antecedents of the South Coast development, the relationship between Naranjo and the Guatemala Highlands was very relevant in prehispanic times.

The representation of an early version of God 1 at Naranjo, also refers the South Coast importance in the Highlands. Being G1 a deity related to the ocean, its appearance in Naranjo, could be argued as a coastal ancestry for it. The implications are relevant in that it represents a very ancient representation (securely dated to 800 BC), of a deity that lasts many centuries and into geographical areas far away from here.

Figurines in Southern Platform

Excavation of sweat bath near the Northern Platform.

Monument 1 (Burns, 1986)

Overall view of 13 stones located in the Northern Platform.

Naranjo must have played an important role in the valley of Guatemala between 1000 and 400 BC. After this, the site was abandoned and not re-visited until the Late Classic (sometime around 700 AD). The sudden abandonment of the site around 400 BC, suggests that Kaminaljuy˙ took over Naranjo, moving its population 3 km to the north, where centralized power was concentrated during the Late Preclassic.

An intriguing question is why Kaminal Juy˙ did not take advantage of the strategic location of Naranjo. It is believed, based on the obsidian evidence, that the site played a relevant role on the exchange network of this product during the Middle Preclassic. It is possible that Naranjo had a role in the control and exchange of the obsidian source of El Chayal during the Middle Preclassic, something that was later accomplished by Kaminaljuy˙ a few years later. The total abandonment of Naranjo may be explained in terms of control by Kaminaljuy˙.

Hearth uncovered at the Northern Platform.

Northern Platform monument

Map by Williamson in 1887

Site Map by Shook (UVG)

The presence of stelas and other monuments at the site, as well as an early stela/altar cult present as early as 800 BC, suggests that the Guatemalan highlands had an important role in the development of the social and ideological complexity of the region. The role of the monuments is still unknown; it could be that they are an early representation of kinship and rulership, but they could also represent the commemoration of a calendrical event incorporated Guatemala City, Coordinates 14░ 37' 55" into the landscape. The three lines of monuments north-south across the main plaza, suggest that they served a special purpose related to the sun, and maybe represent a completion of a calendrical cycle, of note is that. A 260-day zenith transit interval occurs at a latitude of 14░47ĺ21öN. The transit dates are April 30 and August 13.  One of the earliest Maya sites Kaminaljuy˙'s coordinates are 14░37ĺ55öN, some 10 Km south-east of the above mentioned exact coordinates, that lay in the vicinities of today's zone 7 in Guatemala City, that engulfed the area's earliest  ceremonial site of Naranjo. That August 13 is one of the classic Maya creation, is astounding, meaning that perhaps the Tzolkin was first created here.



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Last updated 28/01/2011 17:07:33 -0500
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