A team of archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) made an impressive discovery at the site known as Cima de San José in the southwest of the state of Tamaulipas.

They recovered the remains of 48 individual and multiple burials, associated with numerous hearths. This constitutes the largest osteological sample of ancient inhabitants of this region found to date.

The discovery was made as part of a salvage archaeology project supervised by the federal Ministry of Culture through INAH Tamaulipas. This is due to the construction of a road that will connect the municipalities of Mante, Ocampo, and Tula.

INAH archaeologists explored a section of the ancient pre-Hispanic settlement dating back to the Early and Middle Classic periods, linked to the cultural groups Pueblito and Huasteca.

INAH specialists are working diligently on the recording, recovery, study, and analysis of the archaeological and osteological materials found. Thanks to 18 hearths found in the burial areas, they will be able to obtain samples to date the findings using different techniques such as carbon dating.

Malacological analyses of marine mollusks, ceramics, and lithics indicate that the site was occupied between 250 and 650 AD.

Cima de San José gets its name from a flattened hill for occupation, located 80 meters above the foothills, in the transition between the pine and oak forest of the Sierra Madre Oriental and the Chihuahuan semidesert with cacti and agaves.

The place must have had great religious and sociopolitical importance for the ancient inhabitants because an old map from 1578 mentions it as Tammapul, famous for its large pyramid in Tula.

The remains of constructions, hearths, and the large number of burials and offerings show that it was a very significant site. Most individuals were placed in a flexed position in pits covered with slabs, wrapped in shrouds.

One burial stands out: a man aged 20-24 who wore a necklace with 29 earrings made from worked marine snail shells to resemble carnivorous mammal fangs. Another individual had dental modifications such as worn incisors shaped to be pointed or puncturing and perforated canines.

Thanks to the good preservation of some skulls, a cranial modification similar to early North American groups was identified. These findings provide valuable information about the life and health of these ancient populations.

The INAH team will continue to study the materials to reconstruct aspects of the culture of the inhabitants of Cima de San José, one of the last scientifically excavated sites in the region. Undoubtedly, this discovery provides important data to understand the past of Tamaulipas.


Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) de México

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