How can we learn about life through death, learn about other generations, ways of life and places of the past? To solve these questions is one of the most pursued objectives from the anthropological point of view, considered in an interview the archaeologist Arnulfo Allende Carrera, who has participated in the excavation and analysis of the remains of the oldest skeleton found in the Historic Center of Puebla, in what is known as the Casa del Mendrugo (House of the Mendrugo).

The archaeologist from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) gave a talk in which he recalled that it was in 2010 when the rehabilitation of the Casa del Mendrugo began at the initiative of the owner, Ramón Lozano Torres.

A year later, in 2011, a series of excavations in the central courtyard of this historic building, built in the 16th century, led to the discovery of remains that have made it possible to rewrite and study the history of the founding of Puebla from another perspective.

Allende Carrera indicated that in this large house were found fragments of ceramics and earthenware, pieces of majolica Talavera pottery–, as well as fragments of earthenware with Spanish designs and indigenous technique of the XIX and XX centuries that are believed to have been used by the old inhabitants of the house.

The excavations progressed and the archaeologist Arnulfo Allende, together with his team, found fragments of clay pottery of indigenous manufacture that due to their design and characteristics did not belong to the colonial period but to previous times.

Due to the importance of the finding, a group of approximately 20 researchers was formed, among them the bioarchaeologist of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) Oswaldo Camarillo Sánchez, called by archaeologist Arnulfo Allende.

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The new explorations uncovered objects inside the remains of a clay pot that corresponded to an offering. In its interior there were anthropomorphic figurines of green stone with Olmec style, magnetite mirrors, green stone pectorals, marine shell objects and stone tools to generate fire.

A grand offering

In an interview with Agencia Informativa Conacyt, archaeologist Allende Carrera said that 74 objects were found inside the clay pot and a total of 180 pieces in the entire context of the site. Among the figures, he said, stand out human forms that symbolize fertility and that can be stylistically associated to the Olmec culture, without this meaning that they are Olmec settlements in Puebla.

These are anthropomorphic figures influenced by the Olmec culture, although it is an association and not Olmecs settled in this area. As for the other objects, we also find magnetite, typical of southern Oaxaca.

Regarding the ceramics, he indicated that the vessels found are from the Preclassic period due to their sober style, both in shapes and surface finishes, but he also pointed out that the colors they have, red on cream, are typical of stage 1 of Cholula.

In addition to the objects and the pot, skeletons were also discovered, which increased the interest in knowing part of the history of these findings.

The analysis was carried out in Puebla, indicated the INAH researcher, inside the building itself, while other samples, especially those corresponding to the skeletons, were analyzed at the Centro Universitario de Vinculación of the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP).

After chemical studies and laboratory tests, it was determined that they corresponded to the Preclassic period (1500-1200 B.C.), with an approximate age of 3,500 years, which represented the first vestige of human remains of that age found in the Historic Center of Puebla.

The DNA examinations of molar pieces also revealed that the most complete skeleton corresponded to a female individual, with an approximate age of 50 years, while the other one was a male.

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As the investigation progressed, archaeologist Allende Carrera confesses that they decided to call the female remains Jesusa or Chuchita, as she is commonly known, since the Casa del Mendrugo was inhabited for many years by the Jesuit order, who settled in the building in the 17th century.

Other tests and forensic analysis showed that Chuchita suffered from advanced osteoarthritis, a severe lesion in her left arm that caused a permanent flexion, derived from an infection in the elbow joint, as well as two lesions in the ribs on the left side that, because they were not treated, caused three ribs to weld together, which prevented her from walking upright for at least a third of her life.

It was also found that the skull presented a very strong blow, received while she was still alive.

In the area where her feet would be, there is a pot with female figurines, typical representations of the Formative period and that exalt fertility, it also has associated lithic objects, a scraper made of gray and black obsidian, typical of the deposits of the Sierra Norte de Puebla. 

Allende Carrera indicated that these findings mean the existence of at least two generations of communities settled in this pre-Classic period in the valley of Puebla.

Read the Spanish version of this article here.