Underwater caves as soon as hosted the Americas’ oldest recognized ochre mines

Historic Individuals ventured deep into caves alongside a stretch of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula to mine a purple pigment that would have had each sensible and ritual makes use of, researchers say.

Discoveries of mining-related artifacts and digging areas by divers in three now-submerged cave methods point out that individuals there eliminated a pure pigment referred to as purple ochre, say archaeologist Brandi MacDonald of the College of Missouri in Columbia and her colleagues. Radiocarbon dates of burned wooden from fires used to light up mining areas place people at these websites between roughly 12,000 and 10,000 years in the past, making it the oldest proof of ochre mining within the Americas, the investigators report July three in Science Advances.

Earlier finds have recommended that historic Individuals used purple ochre in some ways, together with as an antiseptic, sunscreen, hide-tanning agent and for physique portray and different symbolic functions (SN: 2/12/14).

Floating by way of the eerie depths of a submerged cave system on the Yucatán Peninsula, divers recovered proof that historic individuals dug up deposits of the purple pigment as early as 12,000 years in the past when the chambers have been dry. The findings make this the oldest recognized ochre mine within the Americas.

Remnants of historic pigment mining uncovered by MacDonald’s staff increase the likelihood that some miners might have died and been left the place they perished. Divers beforehand discovered at the very least 10 human skeletons in Yucatán caves courting to as early as round 12,000 years in the past, earlier than rising seas inundated the underground chambers (SN: 2/6/20).

In a single cave system, an roughly 900-meter-long collection of tunnels dubbed La Mina contained intensive proof of purple ochre extraction. A number of slim passages main into La Mina contained piles of stones and damaged items of cave growths that miners apparently used as navigation guides. Different broken-off cave growths had been wielded as digging instruments. A lot of the 352 pits and different deliberately disturbed areas in La Mina include remnants of ochre deposits, the researchers say. Ochre samples from La Mina have been vivid purple and chemically appropriate for making paint, they add.

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