Pre-Hispanic cemetery in NW Mexico sheds light on local burial customs


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Researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH-Conaculta) keep acquiring knowledge of funerary practices in the ancient groups that inhabited the north of Sonora, such as the incineration and burial (in pots) of their departed, a custom that has been known to archaeologists since the finding of a pre Hispanic cemetery of approximately 700 years old in the Archaeological Zone of Cerro de Trincheras.

Pre-Hispanic cemetery in NW Mexico sheds light on local burial customs
More than 145 vessels that contained cremated human and animal bones were excavated [Credit: Proyecto Institucional Trincheras/INAH]

Archaeologist Elisa Villalpando Canchola, who directs the investigation in this pre Hispanic site, said the location of this funerary context is so enriching (found in the north hillside of Cerro de Trincheras) it has been named ‚ÄúLoma de las cremaciones‚ÄĚ [Hill lock of cremations]

Because the site shows a lot of potential (archaeologically), they took the decision to leave ‚ÄúLoma de las cremaciones‚ÄĚ as an archaeological reserve. As such, Villalpando Canchola added that the discovery of the pre Hispanic cemetery can be known until today because they wanted to study the archaeological context.

Pre-Hispanic cemetery in NW Mexico sheds light on local burial customs
The location of a pre-Hispanic cemetery will advance knowledge of the funerary practices of the ancient groups in the region [Credit: Proyecto Institucional Trincheras/INAH]

The cemetery, added the INAH-Sonora’s Center investigator, was only intervened in a 10 by 10 meter (32.8 feet by 32.8 feet) area, and by means of making strategic wells, they corroborated that this funerary pattern can be repeated along the small hill, so in this case they took advantage of the less deep parts of the hill.

In this restrained section ‚Äďof 10 by 10 meter (32.8 feet by 32.8 feet)- they located 145 pots that contained human remains (belonging to about 150 individuals) and incinerated animals, as well as two stone pit cremations and one more deposited directly over the ground. Also, they excavated three child burials.

Pre-Hispanic cemetery in NW Mexico sheds light on local burial customs
Frog pendants, associated with a funerary jar [Credit: Proyecto Institucional Trincheras/INAH]

The pots emphasized by their variety of shapes and forms; some represent pumpkins, others are oval shaped with two perforations, or with a tall neck and a larger mouth (like flower pots). They also found earthenware bowls, one of these was decorated. All the ceramic collection belongs to what is known as the ‚ÄúTradicion Trincheras‚ÄĚ, from the lower desert zone of Sonora.

From the pots, they recovered the cremated remains of almost 150 individuals (some pots contained two individuals’ remains), some of which were incinerated with rock beads, crystal quartz, frog shaped earrings, bracelets and shell rings. This is concluded as most of the materials were burnt and fragmented.

Pre-Hispanic cemetery in NW Mexico sheds light on local burial customs
Copper bells with the representation of the god Tlaloc or Masau [Credit: Proyecto Institucional Trincheras/INAH]

According to Villalpando Canchola, the process of incineration was at high temperatures (for hours or maybe days), until the pyre cooled off. The remains were cleaned, manipulated and then deposited in the ceramic objects which explain the absence of charcoal and the pyre residue inside the pots on ‚ÄúLoma de las cremaciones‚ÄĚ.

In the pyre digging, they recovered “carbonized tree trunks, charcoal and ash concentrations: stone beads, pots, rings and shell bracelets, bones of carbonized animals and small charred human bones.

Pre-Hispanic cemetery in NW Mexico sheds light on local burial customs
Vessels with cremation remains [Credit: Proyecto Institucional Trincheras/INAH]

The investigators James T Watson and Jessica Cerezo Roman, from the Anthropology school of the University of Arizona, lead the remains’ analysis; also in this same institution they are making tests to determine their precise date.

All these findings and interpretations will be a part of a museographic script of what will be the permanent exposition of the Visiting Center of Cerro de Trincheras, the first archaeological zone open to the public in Sonora, which in 2012 received almost three thousand visitors, most of the originating from the north of Mexico and southern United States.

Source: INAH via Art Daily [January 28, 2013]



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