Maya and Aztec

Ancient Mesoamerican civilizations

Prehispanic mining studied in Queretaro

Category: News reports

INAH, may 26, 2009. The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) collaborates with an inter institutional project developed at Toluquilla Archaeological Zone, in Queretaro, where physical anthropology studies are conducted on 30 Prehispanic skeletons, with the aim to find if the population worked in mining industry. The initiative developed by the Queretaro INAH Center, the National Poly Technical Institute (IPN) Applied Science Research Center, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAH) Geosciences Center, and the Hungary Geological Institute, looks forward to demonstrate the relevance of mines exploitation in the Sierra Gorda south region.

Toluquilla and Ranas archaeological sites have been linked to Pre Columbian mining development, specifically at cinnabar obtaining, a red and heavy mineral composed of mercury and sulphur, used in funerary rites all over Mesoamerica.

Elizabeth Mejia, director of Toluquilla Archaeological Project, declared that the osseous samples belong to individuals of several age groups, male and female, found in burials during excavations. Mercury bio accumulation (presence of toxic substances) detection is the objective of the study, which results would reveal constant exposure of inhabitants to the mineral, by obtaining or manufacturing it.

“The main question is if Toluquilla was or not dwelled by miners; another one is if peoples buried in the site had contact with mining material that cause health effects, which, according to mercury toxicology, may go from abortions, premature teeth loss, or anemia.” Archaeologist Mejia, part of Queretaro INAH Center, mentioned that physical anthropology studies will be performed on 30 out of 50 samples on a first stage. “190 persons’ rests have been located at Toluquilla, which allows analysis on a large range width. Toluquilla occupation has been Carbon-dated between 300 BC and 1450 AD. Between 200 BC and the beginning of the Common Era, cinnabar exploitation in Sierra Gorda started, specializing work organization to devote some time to mining and to train experts. This allowed exchange of cinnabar with other Mesoamerican regions, as foreign material found reveals”, declared Mejia.

According to archaeologist Alberto Herrera, director of Ranas Archaeological Project, there are 7 Prehispanic mine shafts associated to Toluquilla elevation, which sum up 20 with those linked to Ranas Hill.

Source: INAH.

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