Archaeologists Uncover 5000 Cave Paintings in Mexico

First Posted: May 24, 2013 10:33 AM EDT

Archaeologists in Mexico have discovered nearly 5,000 cave paintings in the north-eastern region of Burgos. The find is huge for researchers who are studying the early technological advances of human hunter-gatherer groups.

The paintings themselves are located in the north-eastern region of Burgos--but they weren't all found at the same site. The 4,926 paintings can be found over a span of 11 different locations. Yet the walls of one cave in particular depict a staggering 1,550 scenes.

"[The find is] important because with this we were able to document the presence of pre-Hispanic groups in Burgos, where before we said there were none," said archaeologist Martha Garcia Sanchez of the Autonomous University of Zacatecas in an interview with BBC News.

Made with red, black, yellow and white pigments, the paintings depict humans, animals and insects as well as abstract scenes. In fact, the findings suggest that at least three groups of hunter-gatherers once lived in the San Carlos mountain range. They allow researchers to learn a little bit more about pre-Hispanic peoples that, before, were thought to not even exist.

So what do the paintings show? They depict weapons used for hunting and show scenes of nomadic activities focused on hunting, fishing and gathering. Some even hint at the culture practicing religion and understanding astronomy, according to RedOrbit.

"These groups escaped Spanish control for almost 200 years," said Sanchez. "They fled to the San Carlos Mountain range where they had water, plants and animals to eat. The Spaniards didn't go into the mountain and its valleys."

Currently, researchers are planning to analyze the cultural component of the paintings, according to RedOrbit. They're hoping that they'll be able to chemically analyze the paint to find out the approximate age. Currently, researchers estimate that some of the art could have started as early as 40,000 years ago, which means that Neanderthals could have been the first possible cave painters.

The findings were presented during the second meeting of Historic Archaeology in Mexico's National History Museum.

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