For the first time archaeomagnetic dating of the red pictorial layer was carried out at a Maya archaeological site, providing a direct date to the pigmented lime plasters.
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Although archaeometric studies of Maya lime mortars have been conducted since 1950 [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9], information is scarce regarding production techniques and dating of lime mortars in the region of southern Quintana Roo.
There are some key publications [10,11,12,13,14,15,16] establishing the ways in which the Maya created their plasters, mortars, and stuccoes in a broad way.
Despite this positive experience we have strong doubts concerning the perspective of wide-scale application of radiocarbon dating to the mortars of the Maya region.
The main obstacle for such dating (mentioned by a majority of researchers, including those cited above) consists of contamination of the sample with “dead carbon” from the aggregates presented by calcareous sedimentary rocks.
There are also studies which investigate the manufacturing technique of particular cases [16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25].
Among those, only a few used petrography in their studies [14,15,22,23,25].
Contamination of this kind results in C14 dates much older than supposed by the historical context, and obviously the mortar itself.
This risk increases dramatically at Maya sites because limestone with abundant micritic calcite, very similar to that of the mortar matrix, is the dominant component of the aggregates.
It consists of 4 groups with monumental architecture: Grupo Principal (also known simply as Dzibanché), Kinichná, Tutil, and Lamay connected by —elevated lime roads.
The samples of lime plasters and stuccos used in this study were taken from 3 buildings in the Grupo Principal.
The application of this method to archaeological stuccoes started half a century ago and since then has been used worldwide, showing in some cases expected results , however, in other cases the C14 dates disagreed with the historical context .