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20 February 2005
Links to early hunters found in Baja California

For the first time in Baja California (Mexico), archaeologists have found significant evidence of hunters who settled the region between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago. Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History, known as INAH, announced the recent recovery of more than 150 stone knives, spearheads, cutting utensils and other carved items from an open field between Tecate and Ensenada. The items are being linked to the San Dieguito people acknowledged as the earliest settlers of the region.
     San Dieguito sites have been amply documented north of the border in California. But until now, only isolated artifacts have been found in Baja California, said Antonio Porcayo Michelini, an archaeologist with INAH. Until this discovery, "nobody had found a site that where you could see evidence of a camp," Porcayo, who is leading the project, said. Most of the items were found in October in a field belonging to a land collective. The field is cultivated by a group of women from the collective; the residents have been finding artifacts at the site for several years years, Porcayo said, and turned them into INAH.
     A formal dig is expected to begin in April, and Porcayo hopes the findings will yield data about the little-known San Dieguito culture. "What we have now is preliminary information," said Porcayo. Because of the shape and condition of the artifacts "we are almost certain that they are from the San Dieguito" period, but more studies are needed for conclusive proof, Porcayo said. He hopes the dig will lead to human bones, as well as evidence of the plants and animals that the settlers consumed.
     "Our hunting and gathering people didn't leave great monuments, but it's our prehistory, and it's fascinating how they where able to survive in this harsh environment of the peninsula," said Mike Wilken-Robertson, project director of the Alliance for Sustainable Development in the Indigenous Communities of Baja California. "We're seeing sites in San Diego County that are dating back to over 9,000 years ago, so it wouldn't surprise me that they would have sites of that time period,"  added Dennis Gallegos, a board member of the San Diego Archaeological Center. But with rapid development, many sites are being destroyed before they can be documented by archaeologists.

Source: Union-Tribune (16 February 2005)

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