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10 June 1999
Mexican archaeologists fight developers

With a real estate development in the works, archaeologists are fighting for a chance to study a site they say could provide clues to the fate of an ancient culture along the Gulf of Mexico.
      The site, called El Dorado, is in the 200-acre Mandinga mangrove swamp along the Jamapa River, just 13 miles south of the port of Veracruz.
      The Mandinga Swamp Promotion and Construction company had started draining the swamp and parceling it to create a luxury housing project with a marina when the government's National Anthropology and History Institute discovered the plan in November. The institute has been negotiating with the developer over ways to save the site.
      A few months before the work started, Annick Daneels, a Belgian archaeologist at Mexico City's National Autonomous University, had completed a study indicating the five-acre El Dorado site was important. Archaeologists say it could hold clues to the fate of the Olmecs, best known for the colossal, mysterious stone heads they carved. They flourished from 1200 BCE to 400 BC, then their culture disappeared.
      Daneels, who has been working in Mexico for 17 years, estimates El Dorado was inhabited from around 800 BCE to AD 1200, and appears to be the only site in the area with such a prolonged period of habitation.
      Luis Alberto Lopez Wario, director of the National Anthropology and History Institute's archaeological safeguards department, said he has proposed a five-month study of El Dorado by six noted archaeologists so the agency can determine which areas can be developed and which should be protected as archaeological sites.

Source: Associated Press

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