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Mexican archaeologists identify 5,000 cave paintings found in the northern state of Tamaulipas
Cave paintings found in the San Carlos mountain range in the Burgos municipality of the Tamaulipas State, Mexico. Archeologist Martha García Sánchez said the paintings were made by at least three groups of hunter-gatherers and show hunting, fishing, housing, animals as well as religious and astronomical symbols. According to archaelogists the paintings have not been dated bacause they have yet to collect samples of the pigments used in the images. Photo: M. Garcia and G. Ramirez/INAH.
MEXICO CITY.- The existence of almost 5 thousand cave paintings found in Sierra de San Carlos, municipality of Burgos, Tamaulipas, made by hunter and collector groups of the region was announced by archaeologist Martha Garcia Sanchez, during the Second Conference of Archaeological History, which took place in the Chapultepec Castle in the National Museum of History.

With the help of archaeologist Gustavo Ramirez from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) in Tamaulipas, the specialist [Martha Garcia] carried out the investigation: The Cave Paintings of the Municipality of Burgos, which enlighten the existence of 4,926 cave paintings made by at least three different hunter and collector groups of the region: guajolotes, iconoplos, and pintos; although there is evidence that proves these moved through the Sierra de San Carlos region and nearby areas to the cadimas, conaynenes, mediquillos, mesquites, cometunas and canaimes, among others.

The paintings have anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, astronomical and abstract characteristics, and “their importance resides in the fact that thanks to them we can document the presence of pre Hispanic groups in Burgos, where we had earlier believed there hadn’t been any”, she said.

“At Cueva de los Caballos –she added as an example–, we registered more than 1,550 images; but we still have to analyze the cultural components of the paintings because they are representing myths. In Cueva del Indio, we found representations of an atlatl (pre Hispanic weapon used for hunting), which hadn’t been found in cave paintings in Tamaulipas”.

The images, she explained, let us observe the nomads’ activities. They would focus on hunting, fishing and collecting, also the creation of anthropomorphic, religious and astronomical images, along with temporary homes (tipis: tents made with skin that have a cone like shape) and flora and fauna of the region, such as deers, lizards and centipedes.

In this sense, archaeologist Gustavo Ramirez, from the INAH Center Tamaulipas, pointed out that it hasn’t been possible to give the cave paintings a date “because we haven’t found any ancient objects associated with this context and because these manifestations are in the ravine’s walls and, also because in rainy seasons the stream’s current takes all the sediment and we are left with gravel”.

He added that there is a possibility of taking samples from the pigments, “which could allow us to determine the approximate date by means of a chemical analysis or radiocarbon”.

Technique and meaning
Archaeologist Martha Garcia pointed out that in order to identify possible authors they made an investigation in archives, chronicles and reports of the colonial era, such as the General Archive of the Nation, the General Archive of Nuevo Leon and the General Archive of Tamaulipas, as well as the municipal and parish of Burgos, “but there are no registries of these nomadic groups. However, we do have information on tlaxtecan Indians or Indians from Nuevo Leon, Spanish, criollos, and also French, which would (in said epoch) reach the coast”.

These groups escaped Spanish dominion for almost 200 years, explained the investigator as she dwelled on the fact that the evangelization of Burgos started halfway through the XVIII century (1750) because they were unmanageable, “they ran to Sierra de San Carlos where they had water, plants and animals to feed on. The Spanish however, didn’t go though the ravines and gullies”. During the Colonial period, the Spanish offered 25 pesos for every head of hair or 60 pesos for every “rescued” captive, which is why we know so little about their language, rites and customs.




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