Mexican mass grave brings ancient tribe to life

The remains of 167 people found in a cave in southern Mexico are part of an ancient burial ground approximately 1,300 years old – not 50 years old as previously thought.

The bodies were discovered last Friday by local farmers on the remote Nuevo Ojo de Agua ranch, a popular through-route for central American migrants heading north about 11 miles from the Guatemalan border. Initial tests suggested the bodies were only 50 years old. However, Mexico's national anthropology institute has now said the remains come from an as yet unidentified pre-Hispanic community dating to the 8th century.

Anthropologists said that some of the skulls show signs of artificial deformation practiced more than 1,000 years ago by natives in the area. The Maya people, who lived in Mexico and Guatemala, used planks to flatten and elongate the skulls of infants for aesthetic reasons. Ancient pottery also found could be used to help scientists identify the community those buried belonged to.

It was first feared the bodies could have belonged to victims of the 1960-1996 civil war in Guatemala, which claimed 250,000 lives and left 45,000 people missing. Other mass graves found in the past two years have contained the bodies of migrants and scores of others allegedly killed by drug trafficking gangs.

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