The 2500-year-old village hidden in Tlalpan

Archeologists from the INAH recover human remains of the first settlers of the Valley of Mexico
The 2500-year-old village hidden in Tlalpan
Human remains found in dig site in Tlalpan - Photo: Courtesy of Mauricio Marat/INAH
25/02/2018
11:59
Abida Ventura
Mexico City
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There is more to the vegetable gardens and large backyards typical of the colonial houses in the historic area of Tlalpan, a borough in Mexico City. Beneath the orange trees and other fruit trees lies one of the oldest villages of central Mexico, according to the remains found by archeologists of the National Institute of Anthropology History (INAH).

Thus far, the human remains of 19 individuals who inhabited the area 2,500 years ago have been recovered in the last five months from the grounds of the Pontifical University of Mexico.

Yet human remains aren't the only thing found. Behind the yellow walls of this building, there are other walls, floors, and a rectangular slab, all part of a meeting room of this ancient farmer's village with bloomed between the 400BC and 200BC – even before the rise of Teotihuacán.

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(Human remains found at dig site – Photo: Courtesy of Mauricio Marat/INAH)

“We're talking about a sedentary society, mainly living on agriculture,” says Jimena Rivera, the archeologist in charge of this dig site, where earthenware pots, statuettes, and other items have also been found. “They had an advanced knowledge of pottery because we've found very elaborate pots, with a highly developed cooking and decoration technique; there are also some statuettes, human figures, mostly female, which are very detailed, with traces of paint even,” she explains.

In a very small office, River and her team have adapted as temporary warehouse and laboratory, thousands of plastic bags safeguard the fragments of pots and other items found by these ancient settlers. The remains of the 19 villagers – children and adults – have already been carefully sealed inside cardboard boxes, to preserve them an avoid further deterioration.

On the table, there are several obsidian tips of spears, stone spheres and other objects that haven't been cataloged yet – items that hold the key to understanding the every-day life and society of this rural settlement, the first of its kind in this area.

“In this side of the Basin, they do seem to be the first settlers,” Rivera says, adding that while there is already evidence of human presence in the area since 2500BC, there were no reports of a village like this one.

Among the many mysteries still unresolved is the peculiar grave where 10 individuals of diverse gender and age were found, placed on a spiral.

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(Photo: Courtesy of Mauricio Marat/INAH)

“We aren't still certain if this is a ritual and what kind of ritual it is, but we know the bodies were arranged carefully in this manner, laid one by one and made to intertwine. We have no similar burials or graves with this details.” explains physical anthropologist Lucia López.

It will be the DNA and physical anthropology studies which might finally reveal the cause of the death and shed more light into the ritualistic aspect of the burial.

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