Spring 1996 Mission

Bacteria and fungi on artifact

Picture The Itzamna Tun is a carved jade representation of Chac, the Mayan rain god. By its style, the artifact dates to the late protoclassic period 100 B.C.-A.D. 100, but carbon dating set a date of about A.D. 460, a difference of about 500 years. The Itzamna Tun was used in an annual ritual in which a Mayan king would anoint it with some of his own blood. Leoncio A. Garza-Valdes, MD, found that 95 percent of the blood had been replaced by bacteria and fungi (left), which was younger than the artifact itself, and thus skewed the results of the carbon dating.

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