Street pavers unearth Mayan artifacts under busy street corner

Artifacts were recovered from a busy street corner that was being repaved. Photo: Sipse
Artifacts were recovered from a busy street corner that was being repaved. Photo: Sipse

Mérida, Yucatán — Street paving was halted Thursday when city workers found what appear to be archaeological remains in the Centro.

The presumably Mayan artifacts were under the street at Calle 60 and Calle 71, which is part of a larger citywide resurfacing program.

The National Institute of Anthropology and History sent staffers to the site at noon. They supervised excavation in a one-square-meter area.

“It is too early to determine what is there, but the excavations are being done and hopefully the results will come later,” said an INAH representative.

Construction workers in the Yucatán often encounter vestiges of the peninsula’s ancient past.

Archaeologists have said that they are racing to keep up with development as Mérida’s suburbs swallow Maya settlements.

Yucatán state has over 3,500 known archaeological sites but just 22 government archaeologists, an “impossible” situation, said INAH archaeologist José Huchim.

Relics at risk

“As long as humans don’t touch the relics, they will last thousands of years,” Huchim said, recalling one out-of-state developer who bought a piece of land on the outskirts of Mérida hoping to build houses — and found out there were the foundations of about 170 Mayan-era structures on the property, including 10 temple platforms.

Rafael Burgos, another government archaeologist, credited Mérida authorities for requiring an archaeological survey before building permits are granted. In the rest of the state, such rules often don’t exist.

“Many of the building projects in outlying towns aren’t even reported” to INAH, Burgos said.

{ Related: 56 Maya burial urns unearthed in Sitpch subdivision }

When they have to save artifacts, archaeologists do “rescues” — quick digs before commercial construction begins.

Colonial-era development in Mérida’s center, founded in 1542, has erased many of the Maya vestiges from the area’s thin soil. But on the outskirts of the capital city, remains have been found dating from about 900 B.C. to about the time of the Spanish conquest.

Source: Sipse, Associated Press

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