Altars, plazas and ballgame courts, among other Prehispanic structures that are still buried at El Tajin, Veracruz may be detected by using LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) devises.
Archaeologist Patricia Castillo Peña, academic director of the site in custody of the National Institute of Anthropology and History
(INAH) informed that mapping the archaeological zone is a project that will allow to have detailed register of ancient structures.
She commented that the initiative is being revised by the INAH Archaeology Council. In case of being approved, an agreement between INAH and Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) will be set to determine the company with the LIDAR technology that may conduct the inspection, to be selected by PEMEX.
The INAH researcher declared that extensive exploration took place in the northern and central regions of Veracruz as part of the PEMEX Gulf Tertiary Oil Project. Digital mapping of the archaeological zone will allow determining architectural and environmental categories in the short, medium and long term.
This meticulous mapping may also help locating burial areas, since to present no entombments have been discovered at El Tajin, rare fact since the city at its peak (800-1200 AD) must have been inhabited by 30,000-50,000 persons.
This fact has made researchers speculate about cremation in El Tajin, but there isnt really evidence of funerary practices. Affiliation of inhabitants has not been determined due to lack of DNA samples. Totonaca and other local groups, people from Central Mexico or the Maya area might have dwelled this city, explained Patricia Castillo.
Digital mapping will allow new research projects to be part of El Tajin Archaeological Zone Management Plan, by helping to determine which sectors should be excavated, with lines of study perfectly defined.
LIDAR devices create models with great precision and detail. They work sending a light signal from a sensor that returns to it; the time it takes to return, as well as the position determined with GPS (Global Positioning System) and the orientation (measured with IMU, Inertial Measurement Unit), complete a record for each point of the terrain.
Digital mapping will also allow starting territorial arrangements inside El Tajin Polygonal Protection Area, to limit areas where any kind of construction will be forbidden. We pretend the Polygonal Area to be completely protected, but we need a database that justifies the limit of the land use.
The academic director of the archaeological site concluded that this initiative, among others, will be announced to the communities inside the Polygonal Area using interactive workshops, to evaluate the settlements and take up again their proposals.