April 6, 2024
Today´s Paper

UNESCO Commends Tulum’s Hoyo Negro for ‘Best Practices’ in Subaquatic Archaeology

The Underwater Archaeological Project at Hoyo Negro in Tulum, Quintana Roo, undertaken by the Secretariat of Culture of the Government of Mexico and affiliated with the Subdirectorate of Underwater Archaeology (SAS) of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), was awarded the distinction of “Best Practice” during the ninth meeting of the States Parties to the 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, held in Paris, France, by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The designation was evaluated by the Scientific and Technical Advisory Board (STAB) of the UNESCO 2001 Convention. This decision was primarily based on its contribution to research on prehistory in Mexico, with a focus on the Yucatán Peninsula, including the study of its karst systems, the early settlers, and climate changes. Noteworthy aspects include on-site recording work, which enables equal access to underwater cultural heritage through its virtual valorization using cutting-edge technology, as well as those related to conservation and protection.

UNESCO Commends Tulum's Hoyo Negro for 'Best Practices' in Subaquatic Archaeology

In relation to our country, the Hoyo Negro Underwater Archaeological Project is the fourth Mexican project to receive this distinction. The previous recipients were the Museum of Underwater Archaeology (Marsub) at the San José El Alto Fort in Campeche, the Underwater Cultural Heritage Project at the Chinchorro Bank in Quintana Roo, and the Underwater Cultural Heritage Project at Nevado de Toluca in the State of Mexico, the latter in the category of Archived Best Practices by UNESCO.

According to Mexico’s representative at the meeting of the States Parties to the 2001 UNESCO Convention, Helena Barba-Meinecke, Hoyo Negro represents a biocultural wealth that allows for paleontological research on animals that lived between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago. It is also the site where the skeleton of “Naia,” one of the most complete and among the oldest human remains recovered in the Americas, was discovered.

UNESCO Commends Tulum's Hoyo Negro for 'Best Practices' in Subaquatic Archaeology

Barba-Meinecke, who is responsible for the Yucatán Peninsula Subaquatic Archaeology Office of the SAS at INAH, stated that this recognition positions our country globally as a nation committed to safeguarding submerged biocultural heritage. “The award recognizes the virtual accessibility that the public has to scientific exploration, as well as the work of over 50 researchers from Mexico, the United States, Canada, and Denmark who have participated in the project,” she commented.

The Hoyo Negro cenote, with a diameter of 62 meters and a depth of 55 meters, was discovered in 2007 by cave divers Alejandro Álvarez, Alberto Nava Blank, and Franco Attolini. The research project conducted by the SAS began in 2011 under the leadership of archaeologist Pilar Luna Erreguerena, with the baton then passed to archaeologist Barba-Meinecke in 2019. Co-directors include Dr. James C. Chatters, Dr. Dominique Rissolo, and scientific cave divers Nava Blank and Robert Chávez.

UNESCO Commends Tulum's Hoyo Negro for 'Best Practices' in Subaquatic Archaeology

Over the course of ten years during various work seasons, several findings have been reported, including the aforementioned “Naia,” whose skeleton corresponds to that of a young woman who died at the age of 15 to 17 and lived nearly 13,000 years ago. Additionally, more than 50 species of animals that inhabited the area during the Upper Pleistocene have been identified. Notable among these are the remains of the saber-toothed tiger, the gomphothere, various species of sloths, including a new species of giant ground sloth, bears, armadillos, tapirs, and others. Eight of these species are extinct, while the others have survived through their adaptation to the environment.

UNESCO Commends Tulum's Hoyo Negro for 'Best Practices' in Subaquatic Archaeology

Barba-Meinecke concluded that, in addition to the Hoyo Negro project, other projects were recognized at the ninth meeting, such as the submerged Roman site of “Baia” in Italy and other subaquatic cultural contexts in Croatia. With this international distinction, the UNESCO 2001 Convention promotes the visibility of underwater cultural heritage among the general public, thereby strengthening its safeguarding.


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