RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — On a remote ranch in Starr County, some four miles north of the Rio Grande, tucked away amidst thorny tasajillo and spiny yuccas, is a unique archaeological site where native peoples gathered to prepare foods harvested from surrounding chaparral.
Naturalist Benito Treviño, from Rio Grande City, has spent a lifetime exploring the rugged brush country of the area and has never encountered anything like this.
“I don’t know of any in South Texas except for this one. It is a pestle and mortar used by the indigenous people for grinding seeds to eat, and medicinal plants for tea. There are actually two kinds of pestle and mortar. This is a bedrock which is one kind, here forever, and the other one is a portable one like a molcajete.”
The unique aspect of this site is the sheer size of the “communal molcajete,” as ancient bedrock has at least 19 different depressions gouged into sandstone over centuries where an entire tribe of nomadic people would gather to periodically prepare sustenance such as mesquite beans, ebony seeds, and tunas or cactus fruit.
No one knows how old this ancient site is, but native tribes such as the Coahuiltecans roamed the region for thousands of years.
“We know that people lived here 11,000 years ago. Now, I am very confident that is going to change. I think they lived here longer than 11,000,” said Treviño.
Two carefully crafted depressions were apparently used together to grind tunas and extract juice.
“Bon appétit…tunalicious,” Treviño jokes.