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Oldest human remains from Puerto Rico reveal a complex cultural landscape since 1800 BC

by | May 8, 2023 | Bocaítos | 0 comments

In line with some of our recent coverage involving the cultural advances in the territories, publishes this piece, highlighting evidence of the complexity of humans in Puerto Rico. 

The earliest inhabitants of Puerto Rico might have used common burial sites and mortuary practices across many centuries, according to a study published April 26, 2023, in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by William J. Pestle of the University of Miami, Florida and colleagues.

Puerto Rico was inhabited by people for several thousand years prior to the Ceramic Age, but little is known about these earliest inhabitants due to a paucity of evidence and research, with only 20 ancient individuals reported from this time period. In this study, Pestle and colleagues describe five adult individuals from burials at the Ortiz site in Cabo Rojo, southwestern Puerto Rico, representing a substantial addition to archaeological information about this time period.

Radiocarbon dating of the remains yielded ages as old as 1800 BC and as young as 800 BC, thus including the oldest directly dated  from Puerto Rico and representing as much as 1,000 years of burials at the Ortiz site. The mortuary practices, including the positioning of the bodies and the associated grave goods, are similar to other early sites, indicating standard burial practices over many centuries. In addition, Strontium isotope analysis also indicates that these buried individuals were born in different nearby geographical locales. Thus, the Ortiz site might have held cultural significance as a common mortuary space for various local communities.




William-Jose Velez Gonzalez

William-Jose Velez Gonzalez

William-José Vélez González is a native from Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, and a graduate from Florida International University in biomedical engineering, engineering management, and international relations. A designer with a strong interest in science, policy, and innovation, he previously served as the national executive vice president of the Puerto Rico Statehood Students Association. William-José lives in Washington, DC, where he works at the Children's National Research Institute and runs Opsin, a nonprofit design studio dedicated to making design more accessible. You can see him on Love is Blind as Lydia's brother. He is the founder and Editor in Chief of Pasquines.


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