Romero and Valenzuela Caves


Romero's and Valenzuela's Caves are two small caves located on the same cliff face overlooking a small canyon that, during the rainy season, drains into the Cañón Infiernillo, which in turn feeds into the Cañón Huazacana as it drains south towards the town of Ocampo in Tamaulipas, México. Romero's Cave sits about 20 m above Valenzuela's Cave on the cliff face so they have the same geographic coordinates. The caves were excavated in 1953-54 by Richard MacNeish as part of his quest to find evidence for the origins of agriculture in Mesoamerica (MacNeish 1958). MacNeish labelled Romero's Cave Tmc-247 and Valenzuela cave Tmc-248, and these were excavated as two separate sites. Another small cave excavated by MacNeish, Ojo de Agua (Tmc-274), is located about 1.5 km downstream. All three caves produce large amounts of well preserved plant remains and these form an extremely important corpus of materials for understanding Archaic period plant use and early agriculture in the northeastern part of Mesoamerica (Hanselka 2011; Smith 1997). The only directly dated maize remains come from excavations in Romero's and Valenzuela's Caves (Jaenicke-Després and Smith 2006).
Hanselka's study (2011) provides the most recent comprehensive synthesis of the Ocampo caves, their botanical remains, and their role and significance in understanding early agriculture in Mesoamerica.

ID Other ID Type Subtype Uncal BP (years) ± 1 σ (years) Median cal BP (years) Lower cal BP (years) Upper cal BP (years) δ13C Contaminated?
Beta-85431 MacroSample cob 3930 50 4363 4520 4185 No
Beta-85432 MacroSample cob 2560 60 2623 2780 2367 No
Beta-166757 MacroSample cob 2600 40 2738 2787 2511 No
Beta-85433 MacroSample cob 3890 60 4318 4513 4104 No
Beta-166756 MacroSample cob 2340 40 2355 2665 2184 No

Attached Files

Google Earth view of Romero's and Valenzuela's Cave locations, looking south.

References Cited

Hanselka, J. Kevin
    2011    Prehistoric Plant Procurement, Food Production, and Land Use in Southwestern Tamaulipas, Mexico. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Washington University, St. Louis.  Available Online at:

Jaenicke-Després, V. and B. D. Smith
    2006    Ancient DNA and the Integration of Archaeological and Genetic Approaches to the Study of Maize Domestication. In Histories of Maize: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Prehistory, Biogeography, Domestication, and Evolution of Maize, edited by J. E. Staller, R. H. Tykot and B. F. Benz, pp. 83-96. Academic Press, Amsterdam.

MacNeish, R. S.
    1958    Preliminary Archaeological Investigations in the Sierra De Tamaulipas, Mexico. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, No. 48(6), Philadelphia.

Smith, B. D.
    1997    Reconsidering the Ocampo Caves and the Era of Incipient Cultivation in Mesoamerica. Latin American Antiquity 8(4):342-383.