Archeologists in Mexico have discovered three sets of human remains from early ancestors to the Mayan civilisation, remains that have been dated as being up to 7000 years old.
Found at the Puyil Cave in the Tacotalpa municipality of southern Mexico’s Tabasco state, the three skeletons vary in date with the oldest believed to be around 7000 years old with two others dated at 4000 years old. The cave itself consists of ten chambers and has been the scene of the discovery of around 30 sets of remains, including those of men, women and children, many complete with ritual items. The cave continues to be a place of ritual, with more recent offerings discovered including fruit, food and alcohol.
Developing in the Mesoamerican cultural area from Northern Mexico down into Central America, the Mayan Civilisation itself would not be considered to have begun for thousands of years after the lives of the skeletons discovered, developing in the Preclassic period. The Archaic period that the remains are believed to come from is seen as a long transition between the age of hunter-gatherers into the Preclassic foundation of villages and the true birth of the Mayan civilisation.
Speaking at a news conference, archeologist Alberto Martos said the cave was likely used for rituals and as a burial ground:
“Seven thousand years old is what we’ve just placed it, which is the period of transition from being hunters to sedentarism. There were different groups during this time that used the caves, clearly it wasn’t a domestic cave. In prehistoric times it was probably used for rituals and cemeteries so as to dispose of remains of people. For the Maya, it was a cave of ancestors. This cave was used by the Maya, they respected the remains that were already there and left their own remains inside.” – Alberto Martos
The Puyril cave is rich in burial evidence and is believed to have been used for thousands of years by Mayan and pre-Mayan culture. More than 30 sets of remains have been found in work at the site since the 2000s, all in varying stages of erosion and many arranged with ornamental elements such as axes, knives, mirrors, jade, jewellery, clay and items made from bone. The remains found in the cave are largely said to be from the last classical period (c. 650-900 AD) and include men, women and children.
The skeletons are on display at the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City as part of the Puyil: the Cave of Ancestors exhibition which, alongside the remains, will include other artefacts in the region including ceramics and jade.
Michael East is a writer with a wide variety of eclectic tastes including politics, history, archaeology, professional wrestling and British science-fiction. A former Students' Union President and newspaper editor, he has studied at a variety of institutions and graduated in both history and politics.
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