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Archaeologists find 15 burials with complete human skeletons thought to be 850 years old
At the moment, only one skeleton has been determined in gender and age. This woman, named skeleton 45, was determined to have died between her 40’s and her 50’s. Photo: DMC.INAH. M. MARAT.

Translated by: Cristina Perez-Ayala

MEXICO CITY.- In the seventeenth building of the Tancama Archaeological Zone, 12 kilometers (17.8 miles) from the municipality of Jalpan de Serra in the Sierra Gorda of Queretaro, archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH – Conaculta) found 15 burials with complete human skeletons, which are estimated, in a preliminary manner, to be about 850 years old.

The discovery in this huasteca affiliation site was registered during the consolidation work of said pre Hispanic structure. The osseous remains were distributed in front of a flight of stairs, in one of the ridges, and surrounding the edification, the greatest of these called Plaza de la Promesa, in which archaeological labors were done between last May and July, for their study and restoration.

Jorge Alberto Quiróz Moreno, responsible of the Valles de la Sierra Gorda Archaeological Project – in which the investigation, exploration and consolidation of Tancama was inscribed –, informed that the skeletons were moved to the Department of Archaeological Comparative Collections of INAH in Mexico City.

Within the storerooms, Cristina García Pura a Doctor in Physical Anthropology, will lead the cleaning and the paleopathological and taxonomic analysis of the bones, to determine the number of complete skeletons, their age, gender and possible sicknesses that might have lead to the individuals’ demise.

At the moment, only one skeleton has been determined in gender and age. This woman, named skeleton 45, was determined to have died between her 40’s and her 50’s.

Professor Jorge Quiróz, as he waits for the analysis which will determine the precise date of the osseous remains, considered that as these were deposited in the debris of building 17 it’s possible they have been there since 1150 d.C., when Tancama had at least two centuries of having been vacated.

“The case of the burials recently registered in building 17, might agree with the process of resignifying these buildings, meaning, people who already lived in other places, came back to this city to deposit their dead in some of its structures (necropolis). This hypothesis might only be corroborated with further studies”.

Cristina García Pura, Doctor in Physical Anthropology noted that the finding of the osseous remains add up to the 64 craniums of individuals of 18 year old or younger individuals – the majority of which were of the male sex –, that were discovered in 2001 in this same pre Hispanic edification.

Having found black Zaquil type ceramic pieces, as apparent offerings, the craniums have been concluded to belong to the peak of this huastec site, between 500 and 700 d.C.

“When the incision marks’ studies have been made, we will know if they were victims of a sacrifice or if these were skulls that were used as secondary burials (meaning they were removed from another place). All were found grouped together and four of these craniums were linked to the bones of hand and feet: carpi, tarsi, and phalanges, among others.

“Although a bio-archaeological study has not yet been made, this type of findings usually belongs to sacrificial offerings, since in that time (500 – 700 d.C) in Mesoamerica, the feet, the hands and the craniums were considered the most important parts of the human body. So they were obliged to use them in burials”, García Pura elaborated.

The study of osseous and ceramic material will allow further comprehension on the function of building 17, whether it was a place to make propitiatory burials – as it has been indicated by the finding of the craniums – or whether it was a resignifying space, when the site had been already abandoned.




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