Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have made significant discoveries in La Morita II cave, located in the Mexican state of Nuevo León. The excavation, part of the “Prehistory and Historical Archaeology of Northeast Mexico” project initiated in 2003, revealed skeletal remains dating back 2,500 to 3,000 years.
The remains, belonging to a baby and two adolescents, were accompanied by fragments of basketry, textiles, and fibers, likely part of funerary bundles.
Moisés Valadez Moreno, who serves as the head archaeologist overseeing the excavation, suggested that some infants might have been sacrificed as part of burial rituals. He said: “According to the chronicles, when the mother died during childbirth or minutes later, the infant was sacrificed and accompanied the burial of the deceased.”
The sacrificial practices extended to infants with congenital disorders or malformations. Valadez Moreno explained that in cases of twin births, the perceived as a bad omen led to the selection of the healthier infant, while the other was separated and buried alive. This discovery aligns with previous findings, as in 2023, INAH reported uncovering human bone remains, primarily those of children, in La Morita II dating back 3,000 years.
The excavations removed approximately 50 square meters of sediment in the main chamber and 24 square meters in the south chamber. Among the 1,500 artifacts found were spearheads, an atlatl, punches, and polished edges, dating from 4,500 to 2,500 years ago.
Perishable materials such as cordage and basketry from 3,000 years ago were also unearthed. Valadez Moreno stated: “These latest findings join the almost 30,000 cultural remains recovered in La Morita II.”
In addition to the human remains, the cave yielded a diverse range of artifacts. The discoveries included tools for domestic and ritual use, like awls and polished edges, highlighting the versatility of the cave beyond burial purposes. The presence of artifacts like spears and projectile points, along with dried feces and seeds, suggested the cave served as a hub for various daily activities.
La Morita II stands out from other prehistoric caves, traditionally utilized solely for burials. This cave, believed to be the site of Mexico’s first cave paintings dating back over 6,000 years, exhibited a connection to the Gulf of Mexico through the discovery of marine mollusks, located 300 kilometers away.
Valadez Moreno emphasized the importance of understanding ancient burial practices in northeastern Mexico. The proximity of the three sets of remains and their location in the same soil layer hinted at a simultaneous demise, prompting further analysis through osteological and DNA studies to unravel the relationship among the individuals.
The discoveries in La Morita II reflect a rich cultural history, illustrating the diverse lifestyles, long-distance trade, and ritual practices prevalent during the Preclassic period in Mexico.