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Archaeological Work in Copalita Indicates that Population might have Reached more than 2,000
Bocana del Rio Copalita Archaeological Zone in Huatulco, Oaxaca. Photo: DMC INAH/ M. Marat.

MEXICO CITY.- The recent opening to the public of the Bocana del Rio Copalita Archaeological Zone in Huatulco, Oaxaca, represents the beginning of a new age in restoration and research, which will eventually provide new data regarding the hierarchy that dominated this Prehispanic city, that might have lived there.

More than a decade of investigations in this place located 10 kilometers away from Huatulco Bay have allowed to determine that its first dwellers were families and small communities that settled in the Oaxaca Coast; it was until 500 BC that the locality became clearly defined, which lasted until 400 or 500 of the Common Era.

According to Raul Matadamas Diaz, director of Bocana del Rio Copalita Archaeological Project and researcher at the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), studies conducted indicate that population might have exceeded 2,000 persons.

“The place might have been abandoned between 500 and 900 AD to be inhabited again until 1000 AD, when constructed spaces were re occupied and material from earlier ages was used to build new houses”.

“The new town remained after the Conquest and apparently was part of Copalitlan, “place of copal”, as Mexicas renamed it when they conquered it between 1436 and 1464”.

Around 1100 AD the coast was dominated by Mixteca lord 8 Deer, Jaguar Claw. He conducted the ceremony of re foundation of Tultepec seignory, controlling a vast area that had its border in Huatulco. This region paid as tribute powdered gold, among other products.

Templo Mayor, the structure that will concentrate consolidation work, is the greatest building in the civic-ceremonial area of Bocana del Rio Copalita, and only the front of its base has been worked on; “We are working on its superior temple, the high part that reaches 18 meters, so we can have data regarding the group that governed this site, as we believe the elite dwelled this building”.

Archaeologist Matadamas announced that the new excavation field season will begin in May 2011, when “the façade of the superior temple will be liberated to know the general architectural style, which has talud-tablero (slope-and-panel) elements from Teotihuacan.

“We must compare the last to determine where the style used to build Bocana del Rio Copalita came from. Association with other archaeological material allows guessing that it comes from the southern Maya and Mixe-Zoque area; now we know that culture reached Huatulco”.

Analysis of the foreign elements will allow understanding of how migration happened and how Coast peoples managed to settle down since 500 BC.

Excavations at Bocana de Copalita Templo Mayor (main temple) will help to know more about the elite. “We have explored dwelling units for the common people, but we do not have information of the rulers of the site,” mentioned Matadamas.

Inhabitants of the site conducted different activities that indicate a strong interaction between the environment and their social organization, represented by the human remains located (80 burials of different dates), which indicate that most inhabitants lived an average of 45 years. Further studies are being conducted in Oaxaca´s INAH Center.

Four dwelling conjuncts associated to Bocana del Rio Copalita have been identified, all located at the hillsides by the sea, built on terraces to avoid the effects of natural phenomena such as hurricanes.

The site museum
The site museum was inaugurated in early October 2010, giving a general panorama of the cultures that dwelled what today is the Mexican state of Oaxaca, by exhibiting pieces guarded by Oaxaca´s INAH Center that had never been exhibited.

Copalita Eco-Archaeological Site Facts

• 9.5 million MXP were invested by INAH and the National Fund for Tourism (Fonatur).
• It occupies 81.14 hectares, 35 of them open to the public.
• It is the 13th archaeological zone open in Oaxaca.
• There are 11 endemic bird species.
• This is the first museum at the Coast of the Pacific linked to a sun and beach tourism destiny.

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