Research ArticleARCHAEOLOGY

Paleoindian ochre mines in the submerged caves of the Yucatán Peninsula, Quintana Roo, Mexico

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Science Advances  03 Jul 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 27, eaba1219
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba1219

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  • RE: Response to Salazar eLetter "Ancient ochre mining in the Americas"
    • Brandi L. MacDonald, Assistant Research Professor, University of Missouri
    • Other Contributors:
      • James C. Chatters, Applied Paleoscience
      • Eduard G. Reinhardt, McMaster University
      • Dominique Rissolo, Qualcomm Institute, University of California, San Diego
      • Barry Rock, University of New Hampshire
      • Marc D. Marino, University of Arkansas

    We regret that our search for relevant literature did not bring up the paper by Salazar and colleagues on the San Ramon 15 Site (Salazar et al 2011), which would have enhanced the importance of our findings. Our search parameters were for ochre and Paleoindian, which did not pick up their paper on early iron oxide mining. It would have been helpful to have evidence of another systematic early ochre mining effort of late Pleistocene age. At the San Ramo'n 15 site, early archaic inhabitants of the Huentelauquen Complex, representing the earliest population of coastal Chile, went to great effort to extract small seams of hematite and goethite from granitic bedrock over a long period of time (Salazar et al 2011). At La Mina, the miners went to similar efforts to move large amounts of rock debris in their search and gathering of pigment, in a logistically challenging subterranean environment. Taking into account marine reservoir effect for north coastal Chile (Outleib et al. 2011) on the one shell date they obtained at San Ramo'n 15 and the general trend of charcoal ages, radiocarbon dates place this activity between approximately 11,200 and 10,200 cal BP, nearly coeval with our findings in Quintana Roo. The findings are strikingly similar in the intensity of activity and bespeak a widespread cultural phenomenon. This finding amplifies our observation that ochre was of paramount importance to the earliest inhabitants of the Americas. We share our colleagues...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: Ancient ochre mining in the Americas
    • Diego Salazar, Archaeologist, Universidad de Chile
    • Other Contributors:
      • Valentina Figueroa, Archaeologist, Universidad Católica del Norte
      • Hernán Salinas, Archaeologist, Independent Researcher
      • Pedro Andrade, Archaeologist, Universidad de Concepción
      • Cesar Borie, Archaeologist, Programa de Doctorado UCN/UTA

    Dear Editor,

    We have recently read with much interest the article entitled “Paleoindian ochre mines in the submerged caves of the Yucatán peninsula, Quintana Roo, Mexico” (MacDonald et al. 2020).
    We congratulate our colleagues on such a remarkable discovery, which is a main contribution to our understanding of early mining in the Americas. At the same time, we must also express our concern that previous work on iron oxide mining in South America was neither mentioned nor acknowledged in the paper. The authors argue that “despite the ubiquitous and sustained use of ochre among Paleoindian peoples, there is virtually no archaeological evidence available concerning ochre prospection and mining methods in America” (MacDonald et al. 2020: 1). We were surprised not to see any mention of relevant contributions made by scholars working in Peru and northern Chile on prehispanic ochre mining (Vaughn et al. 2009 and 2013; Sepúlveda et al. 2019). This omission is especially alarming in the case of the Early Holocene San Ramón-15 iron oxide mine reported for coastal northern Chile (Salazar et al. 2011, 2013), since it is virtually contemporaneous with the mines reported by McDonald et al. (see, Salazar et al. 2013).

    MacDonald et al.’s contribution seems especially significant in the context of this other early evidence for mining activities in the Americas. For example, both the caves from Quintana Roo and the San Ramón 15 mine attest to the significant effort inves...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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