This article is from the October 1995 The Mexico File
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Archaeology In Puerto Vallarta
The Banderas Valley was not the site of a major Mesoamerican empire, as is abundantly the case in other parts of Mexico. Nonetheless, some sites have been discovered which point to the earliest habitation by smaller groupings around 200 to 400 BC.
Small early groups settled in the valley, taking advantage of the favorable topography provided by the mountain ranges, rivers, brooks and valleys. Most habitation occurred near the rivers and along the coast near the river outlets. These early inhabitants had water, fruit and the hunting of animals at their disposal. The coastal dwellers fished and exploited the abundant salt resources of this area. Salt was used for preserving meat and fish, for tanning furs and for trading with other groups living along the coast. The early dwellers made pottery and stone figurines, and there is evidence of engravings on large rocks with images of animals and geometric designs.
For those with an interest in the archaeology of the area surrounding and within Puerto Vallarta, the Cuale Museum is the first stop. There is a map in the museum which designates the locations of the local archaeological finds.
This map was devised by Joseph Mountjoy, Ph.D., an archaeologist from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, and guest professor at the University of Guadalajara. He has registered 80 sites in the municipality of Puerto Vallarta and has excavated twelve sites since beginning his work in 1986. He has found vestiges ranging from the Middle Preclassic Period (200 to 400 BC), as well as from later dates (1200 to 1600 AD).