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Archaeologists discover human burials that signal the final phase of Pre-Hispanic period
The specialists discovered fragments of mural paintings, with designs of fauna and marine elements. Photo: DMC INAH. M. MARAT.

Translated by: Cristina Perez Ayala

MEXICO CITY.- The finding of 47 human burials from the XVI century, in the recently opened Archaeological Zone of San Miguelito in Quintana Roo, reveal the last moments of the pre-hispanic era of this ancient Mayan settlement of the east coast, which was characterized by hunger and crisis, derivative of the Spanish campaigns of conquest and colonization of the XVI century.

These interments were discovered inside 11 housing buildings which were excavated by archaeologists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH – Conaculta). Thirty of these burials correspond to infants between the ages of three and six who died because of malnutrition and acute anemia.

The archaeologist Sandra Elizalde, who is responsible for the investigation project of this particular site (in the hotel zone of Cancun), reported that “the study indicates that there was a high infant mortality index, derived of the bad health conditions and malnutrition of a very impoverished population of the XVI century.”

The burials were discovered in different locations of this Mayan site of the Post-classic Era (1200 – 1550), as a result of the first archaeological explorations that have been done here since 2010.

Archaeologist Adriana Velazquez Morlet, director of the INAH Center in Quintana Roo, explained that in the Yucatan peninsula, the conquest was different from the rest of Mesoamerica because there were many scattered cities, “it took the Spanish 20 years to conquer them and when they did they settled in the west (Yucatan and Campeche); so all the eastern part of Mesoamerica suffered the consequences of the severed commercial rutes. So populations like San Miguelito and El Rey were abandoned.

“The discoveries at San Miguelito show material evidence that these were the last days of the pre Hispanic epoch. They also allow insight into the life of the Mayans of the Post-classic Era.”

The archaeologist Velazquez Morlet emphasized this investigation, since it corroborated that San Miguel was the most important Mayan settlement of the island, with an extension of almost three kilometers. Also, she said, up to this moment they have identified two stages in the history of San Miguelito: “The first happened between the XIII and XIV centuries, when the Mayans settled there (1200 – 1350 AD), which is when the most important buildings of the site were built.

“In pre Hispanic times, San Miguelito and El Rey must have been one settlement and of much importance to the region’s commerce since it was located in a strategic place, in the entrance of the Nichupte Lagoon, which made it an obligatory harbor for all the vessels that circulated the Yucatan peninsula. The population exploited marine resources and sowed; the place was big and prosper but when the Spanish conquest and colonization campaigns started in the second period, the crisis period, it became abandoned”, Adriana Velazquez Morlet explained.

In relation to the other 17 burials discovered in San Miguelito, the archaeologist Sandra Elizalde said some skeletons belong to adults, while others are still not identified since they are very fragmented; “two of the 17 burials were placed on ceramic urns, some others were found with simple offerings: deer antlers, a knife and projectile tips.”

Because of these explorations, the investigators at INAH also discovered fragments of mural painting with fauna designs and marine elements; these are artistic works that decorate a San Miguelito temple, their conservation state is stable but they were cleaned and riveted at the edges with a mix of sascab and cal to avoid water filtrations; also they were covered by a polycarbonate roof to protect them from the sun, the wind and the rain.

In San Miguelito they have registered about 40 buildings, 14 of which have been restored so the public can visit them. The pre Hispanic structures were distributed in five architectural compounds named: The Great Pyramid (the main building of the site, eight meters [26 feet] tall and 12 meters [39 feet] wide), South, Dragons, Chaac and North. North is made up of five housing structures in whose interiors they discovered most of the 47 burials.





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November 13, 2012

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