The Prehistoric property that comprises of the Caves of Yagul and Mitla is located in the Tlacolula Valley in central Oaxaca. The complex comprises of 2 pre-Hispanic archaeological complexes, pre-historic caves, and rock shelters. The shelters contain some rock art evidence that showcases the advancement of the nomadic hunter gatherer populations.
The 10,000 years old Cucurbitaceaeseed in the cave of Guila Naquitz are the earliest known form of domesticated plants in the Americas. There are also some fragments of maize cob that shows the maize was in use even in these early days.
The caves of Yagul and Mitla represents clear link between man and nature. The planting of domesticated plants in North America led to the rise of Mesoamerican civilizations.
A total of 60 caves and rock shelters were surveyed by Kevin V Flannery in the 1960s. The archaeologist excavated 4 sites including:
- Guila Naquitz
- Cueva Blanca caves
- The Martinez rock shelter
- The open site of Gheo Shih (outside the nominated area)
The excavations done by Flannery produced evidence of the shift from nomadic to semi sedentary lifestyles. Of the total 147 caves, on 3 produced some botanical evidence including; Guilá Naquitz, Cueva Blanca and Gheo Shih.
Plant domestication and settled agriculture in Oaxaca is divided into 4 phases as follows:
- Naquitz phase (8,900-6,700 BC) – This was within the Paleo- Indian period, evidence from Guilá Naquitz cave has been found for domestication of local plants including gourds, squash, beans and corn.
- The Jicaras phase (5,000-4,000 BC) – This is more appropriately associated with the evidence found in Gheo Shih site where methods of seasoning and temporary use were discovered.
- The Blanca phase (3,300-2,800 BC) – The projectiles found in the Cueva Blanca Cave is linked to more permanent settlements.
- The Martinez Phase - The gradual shift from social groups based primarily on hunting to ones that were primarily based on settled agriculture took place in multiple areas at the same time across the Mesoamerican region.
The pre-Hispanic sites are important in conserving history as ancient people did not record their history with written word that has more shelf life than rock art. Get a chance to visit this destination before the evidence gets completely destroyed by the years. Better still, record the paintings in pictures and written word for future generations…someday, some scientist will be going through your work to study the pre-Hispanic Mexico.