MEXICO CITY – A huge carved stone used as a “stone-map” some 2,000 years ago has been registered by Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) in western Colima state, the institution announced on Sunday.
The INAH said in a statement that the stone is oriented with its main surface facing the Fuego de Colima volcano “and it has cavities that could represent villages, as well as lines associated with waterways and geographical (features).”
In the statement, the institute said that thousands of years ago, the volcano “threw out a heavy basaltic boulder” that, in the tremendous eruption, was hurled more than 14 kilometers (8.6 miles) to the south, to the current Cofradia de Suchitlan, where the pre-Hispanic residents of Colima carved on it meticulously until they transformed it into a “map” of their territory.
The stone – which weighs many tons – is still located in the same spot where it fell millennia ago, and it was registered on June 7 by INAH experts after, a few days earlier, a citizens’ complaint was presented against the INAH Colima Center, the institute said.
The hypothesis that the stone was used as a stone-map of the region “is based on the analysis of its designs and patterns, as well as on the existence of multiple similar elements in the (area),” said the top local INAH official, Julio Ignacio Martinez de la Rosa.
He said that “just in the La Campana Archaeological Zone, in the city of Colima … we’ve counted more than 100 petroglyphs.”
Meanwhile, archaeologist Rafael Platas Ruiz, the official in charge of examining cultural heritage items, said that the stone features “at least three carving techniques” – polishing, chipping and sanding – which were used to represent the surrounding landscape in various ways.
“The highest part of the stone – which is 1.7 meters (5.6 feet) high and ranges in width from 2.12-2.77 meters … – has its axis oriented approximately 20 degrees to the northeast, that is, toward the … volcano,” he said.
He added that the main surface of the stone features “small circular cavities, which could represent the location of ancient communities.”
Also, on the eastern face of the rock, one can detect lines that match geographic features in the area.
“There’s no doubt that these stone-maps helped people know about – and facilitated the management of – their lands. Also, they were a way of preserving the knowledge from one generation to another in an epoch in which no writing existed in the territory that today is Colima,” said Platas Ruiz.
He went on to say that ceramic items associated with the Chanal period or the Postclassical Colima archaeological period from 1000-1500 AD have been found in the same region, but the stone predates that civilization.
“The stone is not associated with the Chanal phase. Its designs and workmanship techniques have a greater relationship with the … period from 200 BC to 200 AD – that is, the period between the Late Preclassical and Early Preclassical periods,” he said.
The authorities said that after inspecting the stone “in situ,” a document was prepared so that its inscriptions could be entered in the INAH’s registry of public monuments.
After that, a notification letter is to be sent to the owners of the land where the stone lies, asking for their support in properly conserving the inscription.
The institute will consider – in conjunction with the local municipality of Comala and the landowners – whether to make the stone available for public viewing and visiting.