When a Mexican rancher set about doing some renovations on his property in the state of Chihuahua, he stumbled across some startling finds.
National Geographic reports that in 2016, the rancher and an excavation team were in the beginning process of leveling a cave on his property when they unearthed the mummified remains of a military macaw parrot, an infant human and the lower half of a man with bound legs. The men took a picture and sent it to Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.
Archaeologist Emiliano Gallaga received the picture and his interest was immediately piqued.
“The first [thing] we noticed was the head of the macaw in perfect condition,” Gallaga says.
The remains were almost perfectly preserved, its “vibrant green of its plumes is still bright, and its keratin beak is intact”, writes NatGeo.
After running tests, Gallaga discovered that the parrot was 2,000-years-old, making it 800 years older than other macaw found in the area.
What Was This 2,000-Year-Old Parrot Mummy Doing in Mexico? – National Geographic https://t.co/HAXiP6Np8j
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Why this is important is because macaws were not indigenous to the area. They came from the southwestern region of the United States, meaning that trade is what brought the birds to Mexico.
With the new parrot mummy, those trade links have now gone back further than previously thought.
“One of the reasons Gallaga’s find is really, really exciting is because of the early date,” says Abigail Holeman, a University of Virginia administrator who has written on the religious significance of macaws. “It does speak to the antiquity of their ritual importance.”
The belief among archaeologists that only the elite or priest-class of ancient Chihuahuans purchased the birds is a matter of geography.
“It’s still 400 kilometers [250 miles] that someone has to take it and bring it to this site,” Gallaga says. “Not everybody can afford to bring a macaw from far away.”
The cave has never been explored previously, so scientists are hopeful that more investigations will provide clues about the society 2,000 years ago.
“We don’t have information about these early settlements in this area,” Gallaga says. “The next step is just to continue doing research in the area.”
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