Re: Small People, Doorways and More

John Pastore (venture@CANCUN.RCE.COM.MX)
Thu, 4 Apr 1996 03:31:55 +0000

Here's something you might find of interest that I ended up sending
to the children of MayaQuest:

From: "Cherie Neima" <>
Subject: MQ EXPERT- John Pastore

Mail*Link(r) SMTP MQ EXPERT: John Pastore

RE>What Do Archaeologists Do?

Hi Everybody,

I just returned from an open-forum of archaeologists on the
internet where a friend, who is an archaeologist and likes to
theorize (he's the poetic type), had once mentioned what he
does as: "laboring in the fields of academe". That's what
archaeologists mean when they are making and teaching their
studies in schools. It also means the field work they need to do
in the quest for evidence and knowledge.

Well I like to theorize too, and I introduced a new theory which a
few archaeologists thought was "challenging the authority of
scholarship". So sometimes you just have to go to the fields where
the ruins lie with just an old ruler and tape-measure to prove -or
not- a point.

To help find the answer of what arcaheologists do, I'd like any of
you to first consider what the theory was that I proposed.So read on
as if you were in my shoes doing what I think archaeologists do.You
can then report to MayaQuest Talk what the theory may have been and
what your deliberations might have be -and I can read them there.
(Also I already know what the archaeologists came up with in
repsonse to the theory and I thought it might be fun to see what any
of you come up with too).

A few days ago I went back into the jungle to where I had wandered
into a very unusual structure some years ago. As I had remembered
it, the structure was so small, it seemed impossible to have been
built given that the ancient Maya didn't have drilling tools that
this structure would seem to have requried, but it was there.

Because I didn't have a flashlight that could penetrate further than
the twenty or thirty feet where the sun illuminated its interior, I
could only peer into it that far, that first time. It then seemed to
me that it was a narrow tunnel for draining water, perhaps to an
underground cistern. Because of its size, and the appearance of the
solid limestone that it was imbedded as never having been broken,
the implication that it had to have been built from the inside out
rather than the outside in was certainly puzzling. It implied that
the people who built it had to be small enough to have excavated the
narrow shaft in the limestone and then finished its interior from
the inside. The stones of the the walls inside were small too, and
were fitted together wonderfully. And it couldn't have been
reconstructed by a recent archaeologist who would have had the same
problem getting into it for reconstructing it ,as the original
builder would have had for building it. Having been protected by
being totally surrounded in solid bed-rock however, it wouldn't have
needed reconstruction, I finally decided -though tree roots seem to
penetrate everywhere else, and this tunnel was remarkably clear -even
of twigs and leaves.

I had made a photograph of it then, but because I didn't have a ruler
with me I couldn't measure it or, even, put the ruler in the picture
so people looking at the photograph could have a point of reference
for comparison. After I left I wondered that if it were a water
drain, why was it built with a couple of little steps in its interior
like a stoop when going down, and why was it korbeled (arched)?

When I visited this time, though, I did have besides a camera: a
ruler, and a tape measure, but, yikes, I had forgotten a flashlight.
Well, it has been some time since I had been there, and I not only
forgot the need for a flashlight, but I had also got somewhat lost in
the jungle before finding what I was looking for upon my return: its

The entrance was hard to find because it was in thick woods at the
bottom of a round depression which dropped sharply for about ten
feet in the otherwise flat terrain. The rims of the depression are
actually ledges where immediately beneath the narrow ledges are
equally narrow streams and pools of water where brooks further
underground seep up through the porous limestone which is the
bed-rock of the region. The whole of the depression is at the most 25
yards across.

I had almost given up, when there it was, tucked under one of
the ledges. The entrance itself is squarish and framed in
limestone slabs making the entrance 20 inches by 20 by 20
inches, and 24 inches at the bottom, graduating immediately to
an a A-framed korbeled tunnel which may be about an inch higher.
I took pictures with a zoom lens from the entrance going in with
a flash for fill light, and I did notice a small block inside
laying on the tunnels floor for reasons I could only wonder.

Getting lost again on my way out of the jungle, I finally found a
goat pen by the palapa of a Mayan family and with their help I found
my way to the road. They thought it was marvelous fun that this
fellow, me, should emerge into their midst lost as I was. I made it
to a car I borrowed and went on to a ruin site some distance away
which I had written about before, Xel-Ha, to get some measurements

On the west side of what is called the Governor's Palace in Xel-Ha,
there is a figurine of a person which I measured to be 20 inches
high. Doorways leading into chambers beginning from its east side
were interesting too.The limestone lintel (the top of a door frame)
of the first doorway measured 45 inches high and 26 inches wide with
stone eyelets protruding from its surrounding walls like curtain rods
which were also 45 inches high. Two more doorways further into the
building had similar dimensions and eyelets.

The "Jaguar Temple" of the site which seems to, relatively, have had
the most massive front doorways of any of the buildings has its main
entrance 51 inches high. It has another doorway visible from the
first, but because the entrance is blocked by a chain net at the
first doorway, it could only be viewed. Eyeballing it, it appears to
be about 4 inches lower then the main entrance or 47 inches high.

The "Alfardos" Structure beside it has it doorway measuring 41
inches high.

The "Observatory" of the site is the most interesting. Its doorway
is 33 inches high and 22 inches wide. It has a bench inside flush
against its rear wall that is 7" high and 20" deep, which makes it
more of a couch or a bed. Crawling through the doorway, I sat on it
facing toward the doorway I had just crawled through. I am 5"5"
tall, and, even while sitting there with my knees nearly level with
my chin, my head was well above the lintel of the doorway and the
wall above it was only inches in front of my nose. If my hair would
have, for any reason, stood on its ends, they'd have touched the
ceiling. The building, and its interior is very small. Just sitting
there, my small bulk took up at least a third of the space of the
buildings entire interior. And when I outsretched my arms I could
touch the sidewalls with the full palm of my hands, indicating the
length of the couch or bed. A perfectly useless building for anyone
of even my short height. The building, though, was not useless. It is
an observatory as low slits in its rear align to slits in the real
wall of the Jaguar Temple across the way marking due north and south.
So it was used, by an astronomer, and, most likely, successive
generations of astronomers who must, not only, have made their
observations there (and not as contortionists), but may have made the
little edifice their sleeping quarters too. All the buildings
mentioned have rooves intact except the first, meaning they have
ceilings too. There was no way to stand up in any of them, and I had
to just crouch or squat to be in any of them. The tunnel though I
didn't enter as I would have had to crawl prone, wiggling, without a
flashlight to who knows where -or what.

Well, there are many such buildings and architectural features
in the region, but it would take months to visit and measure
them all, and seeing that it was the end of the day I headed back
for Cancun.

That night I thought that hwo much fun it had been, while scratching
some mean mosquitoe bites. But wait until you hear this. The day
after I get back to Cancun, the pictures I had taken were developed,
and fortunately the camera had a flash this time which I had used as
a fill light. There's the perfect wall of a room or corridor at the
far end of the tunnel! Whew?

So, what do you think my theory was, and what I was out to prove? Do
you think I should go back with knee pads like those wrestlers use on
my elbows too, a flashlight in my teeth, a bottle of bug repellent
and maybe a short machete to shoo off anything bigger than a breadbox
that bites -maybe anything smaller too?

John Pastore
Writer in El Mayab
"The supreme good in education is expert discernment in
all things- the power to tell the good from the bad,
the genuine from the counterfeit, and to prefer the
good and the genuine to the bad and the counterfeit."

-Samuel Johnson