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Sat Jul 4, 2020, 04:15 AM

Prehistoric ochre mining operation found in submerged Mexican caves

JULY 3, 2020 / 1:06 PM / UPDATED 14 HOURS AGO

Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Researchers diving into dark submerged caves on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula have found evidence of an ambitious mining operation starting 12,000 years ago and lasting two millennia for red ochre, an earth mineral pigment prized by prehistoric peoples.

More than 100 dives totaling more than 600 hours in Quintana Roo state turned up numerous mining artifacts, the scientists said on Friday. These included ochre extraction pits, digging tools like hammerstones and small piledrivers made of stalagmites, markers that helped the miners navigate the extensive cave network and hearths used to provide light. The caves were not underwater at the time of the mining.

The mining was undertaken as human populations first spread through the region. The caves subsequently were abandoned for millennia before becoming submerged roughly 8,000 years ago amid rising sea levels after the last Ice Age.

Researchers previously had found human skeletons in the caves but had not identified why people were there.


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Reply Prehistoric ochre mining operation found in submerged Mexican caves (Original post)
Judi Lynn Jul 2020 OP
Judi Lynn Jul 2020 #1

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sat Jul 4, 2020, 08:47 PM

1. Divers find evidence of America's first mines -- and skeletons -- in underwater caves

JULY 4, 2020 / 8:49 AM / AP

- video at link -

Experts and cave divers in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula have found ocher mines that are some of the oldest on the continent. Ancient skeletons were found in the narrow, twisting labyrinths of now-submerged sinkhole caves.

Since skeletal remains like "Naia," a young woman who died 13,000 years ago, were found over the last 15 years, archaeologists have wondered how they wound up in the then-dry caves. About 8,000 years ago, rising sea levels flooded the caves, known as cenotes, around the Caribbean coast resort of Tulum.

Had these early inhabitants fallen in, or did they go down intentionally seeking shelter, food or water? Nine sets of human skeletal remains have been found in the underwater caves, whose passages can be barely big enough to squeeze through.

Recent discoveries of about 900 meters of ocher mines suggest they may have had a more powerful attraction. The discovery of remains of human-set fires, stacked mining debris, simple stone tools, navigational aids and digging sites suggest humans went into the caves around 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, seeking iron-rich red ocher, which early peoples in the Americas prized for decoration and rituals.


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