Construction at the new airport, where mammoths once roamed. Construction at the new airport, where mammoths once roamed.

Judge orders protection of mammoth remains be given priority at airport

Uncovering relics takes precedence over construction of Mexico City's new airport

A federal judge has ruled that archaeological explorations at the Santa Lucía Air Force base must be prioritized over the construction of the new Mexico City airport.

Archaeologists have already found the bones of more than 60 mammoths at the México state site as well as remains of other Pleistocene era animals and pre-Hispanic human burial pits.

Pedro Francisco Sánchez Nava, chief archaeologist with the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), said last month that it was possible that more mammoth remains will be found at the airport site as exploration continues.

The federal judge ordered INAH to report whether construction of the airport will interfere with its archaeological work. The court order doesn’t halt work on the multibillion-dollar airport but establishes that archaeological and paleontological relics must be protected and that the work to uncover them must take precedence over the construction work.

The ruling came in response to an injunction request filed by a complainant who argued that the airport project could violate his human right to have access to culture as well as international commitments Mexico has made to protect its cultural heritage.

The judge said that the INAH project is seeking to uncover 20,000 years of history in an area where the Xaltocan Lake was once located. The area’s history includes possible interactions between Pleistocene era fauna such as mammals and early human settlers of the region, he said.

The judge also directed INAH to clearly demarcate the areas of the site it is exploring to ensure that heavy machinery doesn’t cause any damage to animal remains, artifacts or other objects of historical importance.

Source: El Universal (sp) 

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