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Mexican archaeologists find complex panel of 1,000 year-old petroglyphs in Nayarit
In the eastern half archaeologists found designs related to fertility-fecundity: rain clouds, sectioned snail shells, and feminine vulvae. Photo: Mauricio Garduño INAH.

TEPIC, NAYARIT.- Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH-Conaculta) recently found a complex panel of petroglyphs that must have been carved between 850 and 1350 AD (some of which are over 1,000 years old), in a site called “Cantil de las animas” [Soul Ledge] near the town of Jesus Maria Cortes in Tepic, Nayarit.

The bas-relief symbolic representations, which are attributed to ancient groups of the Aztlan culture, were located in a practically new archeological zone of the region –Nayarit’s mountainous zone of the southern high plateau–, and they cover a surface of about 4 meters (13.12 feet) long and 2 meters (6.56 feet) wide, which is facing south.

The symbolic content of the representations –detailed archaeologist Manuel Garduño Ambriz from INAH Center in Nayarit–, seems to divide the petroglyph panel composition in two parts.

“In the eastern half we found designs related to fertility-fecundity: rain clouds, sectioned snail shells, and feminine vulvae; in the western half, we found cranium profiles whose front point to the east, precisely towards the sunrise.”

The petroglyph iconography, said Mauricio Garduño, is linked to the pictorial tradition to the ancient groups of the Aztlan Culture, who, during 850 – 900 AD to 1350 AD, were settled primarily in the lower coastal regions of the north of Nayarit and south of Sinaloa, being this their nuclear zone.

Archaeologist Mauricio Garduño also pointed out that within the group of petroglyphs of “Cantil de las animas” it’s also possible to recognize two distinct pictorial styles of Aztlan’s iconography, the one with realistic or figurative representations of curved design, and schematic designs, that are distinguished by their rigid angular lines.

Another important aspect that must be investigated (in regard to the petroglyphs), is to determine if it was also used as an astronomical indicator since the vertical level in which these designs are oriented is over an east-west axis.

“Eventually, it will be necessary to make archeological and astronomical observations to determine the precise date at which the sun passes through this place, and to determine the function of this site in the annual ritual cycle and in the cultural interaction sphere of Aztlan, between the communities in the mountain range and the high plateau”.

Mauricio Garduño believes that the archaeological investigations in Nayarit should be studied more thoroughly to determine if the the symbolic regionalization of space has a link to patterns of settlement. However, we must recognize the contributions of ethnologists, who, since the XIX century, have been studying the indigenous communities in the cultural region called Gran Nayar.

The petroglyph panel discovered in “Cantil de las animas” is also relevant because it is located in an almost unknown area to the region’s archaeology.

Investigator Mauricio Garduño added that since the archaeological rescue works that took place in the 90’s, in the basin of the Santiago and Huaynamota rivers, there hadn’t been any systematic exploration labors in valleys and hill lands nearby.

Othon Yaroslav Quiroga, delegate of INAH in Nayarit announced that it will be necessary to implement a program to (archaeologically speaking) recognize, register and investigate the high plateau valleys. The objective will be to design concrete strategies in favor of protecting the archaeological patrimony of the region.

In the next few months they will officially register “Cantil de las animas” in the Directory of Public Registry of Monuments and Archaeological Zones of INAH. They will also proceed to detail all the designs, which will allow the integral interpretation of these.

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January 25, 2013

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