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Signe Tørå Karsrud
One would pass by El Penón de los Baños in a heartbeat. Beneath the constant air-traffic from Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City, this neighbourhood still bears marks from its ancient past. With the right kind of eyes, you will find traces that have resisted El Peñón's absorption into the sprawling Mexico City.
A Volcanic hot-springs have attracted people to El Peñón de los Banos since time immemorial, The neighbourhood was a popular watering hole for the prehispanic Aztec elite. Emperor Moctezuma visited the baths frequently, and - later on - prominent figures in the burgeoning mexican nation like Porfirio Diaz or Empress Carlota were also regular visitors. It is likely that these very waters also attracted the Woman from Peñon III to the site in the late pleistocene. At 13,000 old, she remains the oldest inhabitant to be found in the Americas.
Community elder Facundo Rodriguez remembers a day in 1959 whenhe helped his cousins to dig a well in their backyard and they unearthed a mysterious skull. Anthropologists soon arrived to collect it, and it lay dormant in amuseum basement for 50 years, unbeknownst to Don Facundo, A study in 2011 revealed the skull to belong to a woman who died 13,000 years ago - challenging accepted notions about when humans first inhabited the Americas, The now nonagenarian Facundo Rodriguez is one of the communit y leaders and has for the last half a century organized the annual 5th of May celebration. This event recreates the battle of Puebla, in which troops of mexican indigenous Zapacoaxtlas defeated Napoleon Ill 's army during the attempted invasion of Mexico.
Despite it’s place in the middle of Mexico City, Peñón de los Baños remains an important spiritual and ceremonial center. It is almost entirely forgotten by researchers, despite being the point of entry for hundreds of thousands of people that travel to Mexico every year. Today, a derelict 17th century chapel marks the site of the aquifer, but it is rumored that it is built over the ruins of an ancient aztec pyramid, destroyed by the Spanish conquistadores in their colonial brutality.
The Anthropologist, The Witch and the Skull in the Well is currently in post-production.