Cultural Evolution

pp 15-60

Guilá Naquitz Revisited

Agricultural Origins in Oaxaca, Mexico
  • Bruce D. SmithAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

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In 1964, with Richard S. MacNeish’s Tehuacán project drawing to a close, Kent Flannery selected the Valley of Oaxaca, located 150 km to the south, as a promising region in which to continue the search for evidence of the developmental transition from foraging to farming in Mesoamerica. Over the next two years, more than 60 caves and rock shelters that might contain evidence of early plant domestication were located in initial surveys that focused on an area of the Oaxaca Valley northwest of Mitla (Figure 1). Six of these caves were situated along Guilá Naquitz (“White Cliff”), which extends for more than 800 m along the northern edge of a small tributary canyon of the Río Mitla. One of these caves, a small 8by-10-m opening at the base of the volcanic tuff canyon wall, was given the name Guilá Naquitz, and, because of its apparent preceramic-period occupations and its promise of well-preserved plant remains, it was selected for full-scale investigation (Figure 2).