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Mexico declares Otomi site first ancient monument in a decade

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Written by Sarah Morland

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s archaeological institute on Tuesday declared an ancient Mexican site more than 1,000 years old as the country’s first archaeological area in a decade despite sharp budget cuts for archaeological research over the years.

Cañada de la Virgen, the modern name for the old ceremonial center of Otomi, is located near the picturesque mountain town and tourist destination of San Miguel de Allende.

The pre-Hispanic site features a large stone temple complex and other structures, many in line with astronomical bodies, and is believed to have reached its peak around AD 600-900, coinciding with dozens of the most important Mayan cities.

The ancient Otome settlements were mostly clustered around the present-day Mexican states of Puebla, Hidalgo and Guanajuato, where Cañada de la Virgen is located, before they were conquered by the Aztecs in the 14th century and incorporated into their sprawling empire.

Scholars believe that an ancient version of the Otomi language, which is still used today, may have been the language used in Teotihuacan, the ancient city near Mexico City and home to the pyramids and towering temples.

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INAH stressed in a statement that the site’s designation as a protected archaeological monument is a first under the government of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, which has cut budgets for archaeological research over the past few years as part of an austerity drive.

The proclamation issued by presidential decree provides protection from commercial development and other construction projects.

INAH added that previous archaeological excavations at Cañada de la Virgen had revealed artifacts from the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, indicating that they were located along a major trade route.

López Obrador has faced a backlash from indigenous Mayan communities in the monument-rich Yucatan Peninsula for a multibillion-dollar tourist train project under construction that critics fear will damage sensitive ecosystems and undiscovered monuments. The president argues that the project will promote development in poorer southern Mexico while reducing damage to the environment.

(Reporting by Sarah Morland; Editing by David Aller Garcia and Christopher Cushing)

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