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Archaeologists find twelve burials thought to be 1000 years old in the State of Nayarit
The experts detailed that they found complete skeletons both inside and around the mortuary containers. Photo: INAH.

Translated by: Cristina Perez Ayala

MEXICO CITY.- A set of 12 burials, inside basalt boxes, were discovered by archaeologists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH – Conaculta) in the southeast part of Nayarit. Given the great quantities of human bones that were contained in each burial, archaeologists consider this finding as a type of pre Hispanic cemetery about 1000 years old.

According to Lourdes Garcia Barajas and Jose Beltran Medina, archaeologists of the INAH Center in Nayarit, this funerary finding is unique since it’s the first one of its kind and because this is a mortuary tradition that had been unknown in the region, with the only related findings being shaft tombs or osseous remains cramped inside clay pots. Until this finding, never had they found osseous remains inside basalt boxes.

The experts detailed that they found complete skeletons both inside and around the mortuary containers –most of which were determined to have been burned given their black coloring– also, they found bones inside ceramic pots contained in the basalt boxes, which is why specialists haven’t been able to determine the total number of individuals that had been interred.

The burials were found near the foot of the volcano Ceboruco (2280 meters [7840 feet] tall). This volcano is part of the Mexican Neo-volcanic axis, whose greatest eruption occurred in 1000 AD; the volcanic rock that covered the burials was the element that helped determine (in a preliminary manner) the temporariness of the pre Hispanic remains.

“Each of the basalt boxes –which are separated at about three or four meters (9 feet to 13 feet) from each other–, are built with about eight (basalt) stones and covered with sandstones that were intentionally fragmented as a part of some unknown ritual”, archaeologist Lourdes Garcia explained.

Also, archaeologist Jose Beltran Medina said that within one of the basalt boxes, they found three Mazapa-style feminine statuettes, two of which –30 centimeters (11 inches) tall–, are exactly the same and represent two elderly women in red pigment who are wearing: a blouse, a skirt, a headdress, earflaps and bracelets.

Along these statuettes and other ceramic elements commonly found in burials, archaeologists have estimated these remains date back to the Early Postclassic period (900 – 1100 AD). It was during this period that a constant migration between the pre Hispanic West and the high plateau happened because of the establishment of commercial routes in the region.

Because of these mobilizations, Nahua groups reached the western regions –although specialists still are not certain whether the groups settled in the region or if they only used it as a space through which they could pass through other areas–, which suggests to the archaeologists the possibility that the area where the finding was registered was a Nahuan settlement and the individuals buried there could belong to that affiliation, although this will have to be thoroughly investigated in order to be confirmed, the archaeologists at INAH Center in Nayarit pointed out.

All human bones recovered in the 12 burials are being transferred to the archaeological camp in the site where the discovery was made. There, a physical anthropologist can study them in detail, in order to determine the number of individuals, sex and age of each one, pathologies and marks left by activities they developed in life. All ceramic objects are being restored at the INAH Center in Nayarit.

The archaeological rescue works will continue halfway through next December, archaeologists Lourdes Garcia and Jose Beltran concluded.

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October 18, 2012

Archaeologists find twelve burials thought to be 1000 years old in the State of Nayarit

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