Burial finding complements information on ancient burial practices in El Conchalito

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Burial finding complements information on ancient burial practices in El Conchalito
Discoveries derived from a recent archaeological salvage within the El Conchalito site protection polygon. Photo: Centro INAH BCS.

Translated by Liz Marie Gangemi

ENSENADA DE LA PAZ, BCS.- Discoveries derived from a recent archaeological dig carried out within the protected area of the El Conchalito site, in Baja California Sur, are being added to the studies carried out by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) over the last 50 years, and corroborate that in this area the Guaycuras and Pericúes natives coexisted for three millennia, as evidenced by the material remains of their different funerary practices, fishing and hunting, tool manufacturing, grinding, shellfish harvesting and food consumption activities.

The Ministry of Culture of the Government of Mexico, through the INAH, coordinated, between January and May, the registration and recovery of cultural vestiges during the supervision of the excavations for the construction of a residence in the Benito Juárez gated community, in La Paz, a project overseen by archaeologists Úrsula Méndez Mejía and Miguel Ángel Cruz González.

The three-meter-deep archaeological digs from which the carved and polished lithic materials were unearthed come from seven excavation sites and included remains of: marine fauna, terrestrial and flying animals, various species of bivalves and gastropods, several specimens of corals of the Poritidae species, and four individual human burials.

Both specialists comment that the latter are being added to the approximately 60 human burials -corresponding to 25 male, 16 female and the rest undetermined-, recovered since 1981 during different archaeological excavations conducted in El Conchalito, whose protected area is 862,058 square meters, and has a perimeter of 4,725 linear meters.

The archaeological site is of exceptional value, due to its use as an outdoor housing camp during the two great eras: the first between 2300 and 1200 BC, and the second between 1200 BC. and 1700 AD, from its strong presence of Guaycuras and Pericúes natives, who became extinct before the colonization of their former territory.

Of the four burials sites registered in the study area, two are very fragmented and deteriorated, whereas the other two are better preserved. The remains of bones are believed to correspond to individuals from hunter-gatherer-angler groups who occupied the area permanently and semi-permanently.

Researchers from the INAH Baja California Sur Center, Úrsula Méndez and Miguel Ángel Cruz, as well as physical anthropologist Alfonso Rosales López, who worked on the archaeological dig, further declared that site named Burial 1 is the best preserved and has provided much information and never before seen data, and found during the excavation that was between 80 and 100 centimeters from the surface at the southeast end of the property a five-by-five meter deep well with an ash laden bottom a variety of mollusks were found from the Pinna Rugosa species.

The skeleton that was found is 95% whole, and it has been determined through laboratory studies to correspond to a female individual, whose age, at the time of death, is estimated to be between 21 and 25 years old.

Archeologists who unearthed her described that the body was found face up with the head turned to the right and slightly raised. The postcranial bones indicated that the young woman was in a semi-extended position and further described the lower limbs as being raised and had flexed knees.

"The fact that the burial had appeared in the middle of two quadrants allowed us to have a stratigraphic view, which until now had not been obtained in other archaeological excavations: it was previously believed that the graves had very limited shapes and dimensions and were barely big enough to contain a body.”

"However, with the new finding it is clear that the measurements of the pit exceeded the size needed to hold the body.”

Currently, the human bone remains are being cleaned and undergoing conservation treatments, which will be followed up with morphoscopic analyses in the Osteology Laboratory of the INAH Baja California Sur Center, by physical anthropologist Leticia Sánchez García.

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