Mexican archaeologists have discovered in the southern part of the country a kiln used by the ancient Zapotecs to make ceramics more than 1,300 years ago, the National Anthropology and History Institute, or INAH, said.
The pre-Columbian kilm was discovered in the Atzompa Archaeological Zone in Oaxaca state, which will be opened to the public this year, INAH said in a communique.
It added that this is one of the best preserved ceramic kilns ever found in the Zapotec area, and noted Oaxaca's long tradition in making pottery.
According to Wednesday's communique, the kiln "is a link between the pre-Columbian pottery tradition and the artisanal ceramics currently made in the community of Santa María Atzompa, establishing the connection between today's inhabitants and their ancestors."
Archaeologist Jaime Vera, head of the excavation, said the kiln "is thought to date back to the first years of the pre-Columbian settlement of the area, in other words, more than 1,300 years ago, which is deduced from the ceramics found with it."
Another element that allows the kiln to be dated is the depth at which it was found - 2.2 meters (7 feet 2 1/2 inches) - "far below the layer of stucco that covered it, and which corresponds to that era, the archaeologist said, adding that further studies will be made to confirm its antiquity.
It was in the excavation period between March and December 2011 that the kiln was completely uncovered allowing its principal characteristics to be observed: a cylindrical adobe wall and shelves for placing the objects to be fired.
The kiln consists of a cylindrical adobe wall measuring 2.1 meters (6 feet 11 inches) from the surface to the firing shelves arranged in convergent lines toward the center, and a downdraft vent in the lower part approximately 20 centimeters (8 inches) wide," Vera said.
He said that "while today's kilns are not identical in dimensions or shelf arrangement, they do perserve certain basic elements and the function as a space for firing ceramics."
The Atzompa Archaeological Zone, approximately 4 square kilometers (1 1/2 square miles), existed as a small satellite village of the Zapotec city of Monte Albán during the Late Classic period (650 B.C.to 900 B.C.) when the latter's growing population expanded beyond its boundaries.
The work to provide the Atzompa Archaeological Zone with the necessary infrastructure will continue, since it is one of the pre-Columbian sits that will be opened to the public this year, INAH said.