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Thousands of ancient burial sites and cultural artifacts unearthed along Mexico’s new rail line


A total of 2,482 artifacts and burial sites dating to 700 BC. AD have been identified on the route of a controversial railway development in Mexico.

The Maya Train high-speed line is expected to extend 1,500 km and connect several archaeological areas of the Yucatán Peninsula, from Palenque in Chiapas to Cancún to Quintana Roo.

The announcement follows years of protests and legal injunctions against the project from local communities, more than 50% of whom are indigenous Mayans.

The initial risk assessment – conducted by the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico (INAH) and using laser topographic scanning and other non-invasive techniques – lasted approximately five months, during which time archaeologists have unearthed intricate architecture of stone and clay and mounds, ceramics, ceremonial and funeral vases and other artefacts dated from 700 BC to 850 AD between Palenque and Escárcega in Campeche.

Most of the finds were found in the Tenosique area of ​​Tabasco. Archaeologists have also identified two areas at Tenosique and on the banks of the Boca del Cerro containing around 80 burial sites which in some cases have revealed skull deformities that would indicate high religious or political status in Mayan society.

The Maya Train line is expected to extend for 1,500 km. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

INAH received a substantial $ 42 billion grant from the Mexican government this summer to search for archaeological sites likely to be affected by the train line.

Residents claimed that INAH and the National Fund for Tourism Development, which also oversees the project, were not disclosing their findings, process and impact, and allege that some who worked on the construction sites suspect that looting was commonplace.

In addition to the new findings, archaeologists have recorded around 14,000 artifacts since the train line opened in 2018. But the project has progressed without major changes to the route.

Part of the grant is used to strengthen the conservation of existing sites and to renovate facilities and museums, as well as open spaces that were previously inaccessible to the public along the route.

The train line is expected to have 30 stops, including 19 new stations, and its cost is estimated at between $ 6.5 billion and $ 72 billion, which the Mexican government is funding with a tourist tax levied on the Yucatán region, as well as an increase. 650% budget. for the tourism sector this year, 95% of which is devoted to the rail line.