Journal of Cave and Karst Studies - ISSN 0146-9517
Volume 59 Number 1: 26-32 - April 1997

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Cueva Cheve Tablet
Janet F. Steele and Ralph Snavely


A turquoise mosaic tablet was discovered within the archaeological site in Chamber 1 of the cave, Cueva Cheve, in the Cuicatec region of Oaxaca, Mexico, in March, 1989. Its four sections were found stacked, two fragments facing up and two facing down, in a space under breakdown rocks in the large entrance chamber. The tablet dates to the Late Postclassic Period (1250-1500 AD). The tablet has now been partially restored from the pieces retrieved. One quadrant pattern includes a battle scene with winners and losers. Other artifacts within the cave help explain the ceremonial context of the tablet, including obsidian blades, jade beads, a wooden mask, in situ vessels, and a platform containing buried human remains built on top of giant spalled ceiling blocks of rock. The cave was also likely used from the Classic Period (250-750 AD), and there is evidence that the cave continues to be used ceremonially today by the local Cuicatecs.

Although initially studied using methods that limit site disturbance, the tablet was removed and the three archaeological chambers in Cueva Cheve were subsequently excavated in the spring of 1990 and 1991. The excavation was necessary as there was an increase in visitors to the cave due to Cueva Cheve having become well known among speleologists at that time as being the deepest cave in the Western Hemisphere. Further, the tablet needed to be climate stabilized at the Oaxacan Museum to prevent further damage to its wood resulting from the cave’s humidity.

This page last updated: 7 May, 2003 18:48
Web Author: Jim Pisarowicz