JUQUILA: DISCOVERING CAVES IN AN ANCIENT MIXTECAN WORLD – Oxaca, Mexico
Research in an unexplored part of Oaxaca, through canyons and archaeological sites.
Geographical area: plateaus south-west of Oaxaca State, south of Tehuacán city, Mexico.
The karst area crossed by the canyon of Rio Juquila south of the town of Tehuacán is near one of the regions with more caves than any other part of Mexico and yet is still barely explored from the speleological point of view. The entire area has a semi-desert climate and water flows almost totally underground, thus the few existing springs have always represented an immensurable legacy. It is right in this area that the pre-Columbian agriculture has its roots. The La Venta association carried out a series of expeditions in this region from 2000 to 2007, thanks to the support of the Reserva de la Biosfera de Tehuacàn-Cuicatlàn, and discovered several caves, small ones mostly, but in some cases of great archaeological and scientific interest.
The “Juquila” Project
This project is purely based on speleological exploration. It started with an aerial survey in 2000 and continued in April 2002 with the first expedition to descend into the canyon (which develops for 15 km between massive limestone walls). With the 2002 expedition we started to explore the main caves.
The following year, a new expedition worked mainly in the highest parts of the plateau, east of the canyon, and discovered some vertical caves, up to 280 m deep, highlighting even more the potential of this area.
Other expeditions followed in 2004 and 2006. The last one in particular was focused on the extreme southern part of the karst area and led to the discovery of interesting relicts of hydrothermal caves. Although these relicts were fragmented and filled with debris, the expedition was very successful because of many important archaeological finds, such as extensive traces of human settlements.
The goal of the last expedition, performed in 2007, was to assess the potential of the highest area, exceeding 3000 m with the Cerro Verde, and to perform for the first time the complete descent of the canyon, in which several caves were discovered but only partially explored.
Future plans: Research in the field seems to be fairly complete; however there are still some unexplored areas which are potentially interesting. Senile karst conditions found in many of the explored caves makes it difficult to access vast underground systems without focusing research on intermediate areas of the canyon walls. If research is to continue it should concentrate mainly on archaeological caves.
Technical partner and sponsorship: Ferrino, Napapijri, Aviacsa.
Patronages: Società Speleologica Italiana, Istituto Italiano di Speleologia, Club Alpino Italiano, Semarnat (Secretaria del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales), Reserva de la Biosfera de Tehuacàn-Cuicatlàn, Comisiòn Nacional Para el Conocimiento y uso de la Biodiversidad (Conabio) - Mexico.
Insights: Juquila: un diario - Juquila: a diary - A. DE VIVO - KUR 1, 2003 (ITA-ENG) Conversando di Juquila - Talking about Juquila - M. MECCHIA - KUR 7, 2006 (ITA-ENG) Sintesi sulle conoscenze sul carsismo del Canyon Juquila - A synteshis on the knowledge of the carst phenomenon of the Juquila Canyon - M. MECCHIA, L. PICCINI - KUR 7, 2006 (ITA-ENG) El fenomeno karstico de la Sierra Mixteca-Zapoteca - M. MECCHIA, L. PICCINI, A. DAVILA - CNME, 2007 (ESP)
Sintesi sulle conoscenze sul carsismo del Canyon Juquila/2 - A synteshis on the knowledge of the carst phenomenon of the Juquila Canyon/2 - M. MECCHIA, L. PICCINI - KUR 8, 2007 (ITA-ENG) Juquila 2007: grotte, gole e serpenti - Juquila 2007: caves, canyons and snakes - F. SAURO - KUR 10, 2008 (ITA-ENG) Preliminary notes on the karst of Sierra Mixteca-Zapoteca, south of Theuacan, Mexico - L. PICCINI, M. MECCHIA, P. FORTI, FEALC, 2008 (ENG) Five years of speleological invetigation in the karst of Sierra Mixteca-Zapoteca, south of Theuacan, Oxaca, Mexico - F. SAURO, L. PICCINI, M. MECCHIA - ICS Proceedings, 2009 (ENG) Juquila 2002: una tranquilla settimana di paura - Juquila 2002: a tranquil week of fear - T. BERNABEI - KUR 16, 2011 (ITA-ENG)