Image credits: Alex Rose
News Article

The Legacy of The Submerged Ocher Mine in Quintana Roo

By Karin Dilge | Mon, 06/06/2022 - 16:25

The oldest ocher mine discovered on the American continent was discovered in Quintana Roo and is calculated to be more than 12,000 years old. The finding highlight’s Mexico’s long-standing relationship with mining.

The state of Quintana Roo, located in the Yucatan Peninsula, is the site of one of the most important historical findings for the Mexican mining industry, called La Mina. The site is the extension of the Hoyo Negro, a space that in the past was used by human inhabitants looking for water or to flee from predators. Above all, it is believed that the community living produced resources by carrying out mining activities. Ocher, used to light fires as well as for art, decoration and possibly medicine, was the prized targeted mineral.

This is one of the most important discoveries of Underwater Archeology Department of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). In 2017, the researchers, Fred Devos and Sam Meacham, followed trails through a now submerged cave system. They described findings of broken speleothems and piles of rubble as well as the both entries as marked with stone cairns and broken stalactites, presumably used as navigation marks that directed the miners to the ocher sources, said the experts.

Besides ocher, the investigators found remains of coal and soil reddened by fire across the cave’s floors. It is speculated that the people working there used fire to illuminate their path.

“And they must have really valued [ocher] because they spent a lot, a lot of energy removing tons of it,” said Fred Devos to CBC, as heg that “I am confident in saying that this was a widespread, common activity. It was not a one-off. It is something that was important to the people of that era, and it lasted for a long time. We have evidence spanning 2,000 years of mining.”

Moreover, because the sea level was not as high as it is today, people were able to extract the mineral formed by iron and oxygen with little trouble. The scientists encountered human skeletal remains, as well as rudimentary excavation tools.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
Radio Fórmula, Mining Mexico
Photo by:   Alex Rose
Karin Dilge Karin Dilge Journalist and Industry Analyst