|Clave / ID||Nombre||Resumen EN||Descripción EN||Sabías qué EN|
|Malpasito||This site is characteristic of the Zoque culture, close to the Olmec and the Maya, but different. Thirteen hundred years ago its founders flattened the irregular terrain and formed artificial terraces on which to erect their delicate constructions, as well as producing fine pottery.||Malpasio is in the corner of Tabasco bordering the states of Chiapas and Veracruz. Between 600 and 900 it was occupied by groups related to the Zoque, who managed to build a modest city, becoming the political and economic center of a small province between the Pava and Amacoite mountain ranges.|
The city influenced the growth of smaller settlements on the slopes of the mountain ranges. There was an abundance of natural resources thanks to the humid tropical climate, with good growing conditions for corn and cacao.
The inhabitants had a pottery tradition which featured white or cream finishes, with innovations acquired from the Gulf coast of Mexico, such as local adaptations of fine orange colored pottery.
Malpasito may have been dominated by more important sites located in the northeast of Chiapas, such as San Antonio and San Isidro, which have shared cultural traits in terms of ceramics and architecture, and whose people were ancestors of the Zoque chiefdom of Quechula, which was encountered by the Spanish conquistadors.
The archeological site is strategically located on the slopes of the mountain and between two small valleys which determine the sole point of entry at the northeast end. With its 53 buildings, the monumental area covers 35 acres. The architecture is distinguished by the use of rectangular platforms built from cut sandstone blocks joined with mortar.
The distribution of buildings in the civic-ceremonial area was carefully planned, both on the hilltop and along the curves of the artificial terraces, which implied the possession of the sophisticated engineering knowledge needed to integrate the architectural elements into the natural topography.
By contrast, the location of buildings in the residential area was determined by the shape of the land, water sources, and easy access to farmland, which is why low hills were chosen, as can be seen in the northern area of the site. These platforms might have supported houses or temples roofed with high truncated conical roofs, built from perishable material such as wood and a species of grass or palm fronds.
|Mayapán||The last great city of the ancient Mayas, walled, reminiscent of Chichén Itzá once it had fallen. The seat of up to 12,000 inhabitants, founded thirteen centuries ago, with remarkable buildings in the Maya-Tolteca style but with their own particular features, and with unexpected mural paintings of great value.|
|Mitla||This is a zone where stone was worked like jewellery and the Zapotec people showed their devotion to the dead. Here we can see the imprint of the skills of this indigenous group and its marvellous world, established 18 centuries ago.||We now call it Mitla from its Nahuatl name of Mictlán, but it was known in Zapotec as Lyobáa, “resting place” of the dead. It is estimated that Zapotec groups began settling the site in approximately 200 AD. It grew in importance after the fall of Monte Albán in the ninth century, reaching its height in approximately the year 1200, and maintaining supremacy in the Valley of Tlacolula until the Spanish conquest. Its population once stood at about 15,500. Mitla is currently a thriving, bustling city that contains and surrounds the archeological zone, where visitors can experience the everyday existence of a Zapotec community. |
Five groupings of monumental architecture remain from ancient Mitla: the Northern Group, the Column Group, the Stream Group, the Adobe or Calvary Group and the Southern Group. The latter two date from an earlier age and are similar in style to Monte Albán (plazas bordered by palaces erected on platforms). The other three consist of three quadrangular courtyards interconnected with walkways. These are surrounded by large halls whose facades and internal walls present us with a profusion of complex geometrical mosaic decoration in finely carved stone. This is noteworthy due to its variety, which is characteristic of the late Zapotec style and cause for admiration from both locals and outsiders.
The Hall of Columns is the most outstanding of these buildings. Inside, there is a row of columns each carved from a single block of stone, fulfilling the architectural roles of support and decoration. In Courtyard E, several ancient palaces were destroyed and plundered for stones to build the church of San Pablo, which nevertheless remained supported and surrounded by extraordinary pre-Hispanic structures.
We can see the remains of paint, especially red paint, in several parts of the ancient city. Careful observation, and consultation of valuable testimony from national and international scholars (Eduard Seler, Edward Mühlenpfordt, Ignacio Marquina, Leopoldo Batres, Paul Gendrop, Alfonso Caso, Daniel Rubín de la Borbolla, John Paddock and Bernd Fahmel) have allowed us to rediscover the site’s abundance of mural painting, of which very fragmented yet revealing vestiges remain.
|Monte Albán||The great Zapotec capital, on the flattened top of a group of hills, where the populace lived on the hillsides. Marvellous monuments, burial sites, ceramics, gold jewellery and fine stones. A rival of Teotihuacan, it was invaded by this empire, but survived to leave this amazing legacy.||Monte Albán was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. This ancient Zapotec capital crowns the Cerro del Jaguar (Jaguar Hill), 4,921 feet above sea level. Its main plaza was artificially levelled, measures 328 yards long by 197 yards wide, and has a capacity of up to 15,000 visitors.|
Other hills and sites, such as Atzompa, Cerro del Gallo, El Plumaje, Monte Albán Chico and El Mogollito, were incorporated into its sphere of influence from Period II onward (200 BC to 200 AD). During this time, Monte Albán expanded and consolidated itself as a state, eventually reaching a population of approximately 35,000. This site was the longest occupied in Mesoamerica (500 BC to 900 AD) and was one of the first states, as its origins predate those of Teotihuacan.
The archeological site covers more than eight square miles, but most of the population was concentrated into an area of two and a half square miles. Its main plaza lies on the highest part of the hill, around which run natural and artificial terraces with residential structures on them. High-status residential units are near the center, which was also an area of religious and governmental activity, while lower status residences (related to agricultural and craft activities) are on the hillsides, especially to the north and east.
The pre-Hispanic structures consist of panels (vertical walls) and slopes (inclined walls), with raised sloping sections (alfardas) bordering the very wide stairways, thus giving the structures a great deal of solidity. One of the city’s architectural characteristics from the height of its splendor consists of double scapulary panels. Elite residences had a square base, with a central courtyard surrounded by rooms in hierarchical order. People were generally buried within residences, and the associated architecture and offerings tell us that their funerary customs were also based on hierarchy.
Monte Albán was the capital of a state that exacted tribute in kind (e.g. corn, beans and squash) from the communities it controlled. Merchants from different villages travelled to the city to exchange different goods. The city was also a center for the production of ceramics such as urns, a striking example of which is the depiction of Cocijo, god of lightning and rain. Its most noteworthy discoveries include carved stones (the Dancers, Conquest Slabs and Stelae of Governors), some of which bear evidence of Zapotec writing.
The relationship with Teotihuacan became very important from 200 to 500 AD. Evidence of a Zapotec neighborhood in Teotihuacan is one sign of this, as is the influence of Teotihuacan on the ceramic style of Monte Albán. Despite the site’s fall, people visited it from different places to leave offerings, as it was still considered a sacred site.
|Moral Reforma||From a small village it developed into an important point of control for the trade between Petén and the Gulf coast, via the river San Pedro in Tabasco, over a period of 1,700 years. Splendid walled pyramids and filigree inscriptions testify to its alliance with Calakmul and Palenque.||Moral-Reforma was a Mayan city which thrived on the banks of the San Pedro Mártir River. In its early stages, around 300 BC, navigators used this spot to bypass the river rapids by land. Between 250 and 500 AD, the first phase of construction took place, which consolidated its importance as a center for control of the river. It gained political importance through alliances with great Mayan kingdoms of the era: with Calakmul until 661 AD and Palenque until 690 AD, prompted by control of the region and as an important trade route via the San Pedro Mártir and Usumacinta rivers. With this political and economic support, Moral Reforma achieved its maximum expansion. From 695 AD, Calakmul was politically reoriented towards the Bec River region, while Tikal became weaker as a result of territorial disputes between both kingdoms. As a result, Moral-Reforma became politically independent, ruling a small province in the region of San Pedro Máritr, and enjoyed marginal but sustained development until 1000 AD. |
The site is located in the center of the municipality of Balancán in Tabasco. The central part of this Mayan city occupied two low hills which spanned 180 acres, demarcated by the San Pedro Mártir River to the south and the El Sayá River to the north. In this area, more than 76 pre-Hispanic buildings can be seen, distributed around two open plazas in an organized fashion; among these the Conjunto de la Plaza Poniente ("West Plaza Complex") stands out, demarcated by 19 buildings, as does the Conjunto de la Plaza Oriente ("East Plaza Complex"), demarcated by 28 buildings. However, this ancient settlement was larger still: other smaller constructions are found around the central area, dispersed over approximately 7,400 acres extending between the aforementioned river courses.
The architecture of Moral-Reforma is in the Petén style and is similar to that of Calakmul. The size of the pyramidal plinths is much larger in proportion to that of the building. The architecture also features cross-shaped floor plans and a stelae-altar complex. Other characteristic elements are the incorporation of raised sloping walls on one or both sides of the staircases, the paired buildings and the palace-style buildings with indoor courtyards which seem to be late additions to the site.
The construction materials used for the buildings are flint and limestone which have been superficially worked and held together with lime mortar. In the early building stage, the use of of a type of clay block known in the region as “sascab” was identified, which were reused at later stages.
|Muyil||An important coastal city, inhabited since the fifth century BC, with impressive architecture related to that of El Petén in Guatemala, of temples erected with intricate arrises. It was of great importance in the trade between the peninsula and the Gulf coast. It had contact with Chichen Itza and Mayapan.||The occupation of Muyil began in the Late Preclassic. Its economy was based on its diverse environment and on the exploitation of its strategic location, which made it easy to reach the Caribbean, accessed via the lagoons. |
In the Classic period there was an increase in population which led to the building of residences and civic and religious buildings.
The greater part of the documented architectural remains are from the Early to Late Postclassic, when Muyil, which was first dominated by Chichen Itza and then by Mayapan, formed part of the coastal trade network, which attained great importance in the peninsular region.
Since it is inside the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, established in 1986, a visit to Muyil is an ideal way to discover the flora and the fauna of the central area of the peninsula.
|Nadzca'an||Surrounded by a thick jungle, this city was discovered in 1993 and is little known. The great number of buildings, as well as their size are proof of the importance it achieved. Most remarkable is the number of steles found inside the structures.|
|Ocotelulco||Here are vestiges of what was the most important Domain of the Tlaxcaltecas at the time of the arrival of the Spaniards. There are remnants of a small temple where, on an altar with polychrome decoration, one sees an area of flint-stones surrounding a large burning brazier, upon which lies the figure of Tezcatlipoca.|
|Ocoyoacac||Possibly inhabited by immigrants from Teotihuacan, the architectural complex of this place is made up of areas of very simple rooms.||The archeological zone lies on the western side of the low hills of Sierra de las Cruces, in the site known as Tlalcozpan. Its occupation dates from 450 AD and continued until 650 AD (Classic period). At the time, the Valley of Toluca was occupied by farming groups from the Otomi family. The inhabitants of Teotihuacan then settled in the region. Their presence has also been confirmed in other towns, such as Metepec, Calixtlahuaca, Ojo de Agua (in Tenango del Valle), Los Cerritos, Santa Cruz Azcapotzaltongo, Rancho la Mora (in Toluca), Villas del Campo and Las Fuentes (in Calimaya), San Mateo Atenco and San Antonio La Isla.|
The diversity of ecosystems and the richness of natural resources existing in the Valley of Toluca offered the necessary conditions for human subsistence. On the alluvial plain, the new settlers found lakeside resources and fertile lands, and on the hills, terrain suitable for growing corn, squash and beans. Moreover, the wooded area provided them with timber and the opportunity for hunting and gathering fruit.
The Valley of Toluca was therefore characterized by settlements by people from Teotihuacan. It is possible that they sent various products to the great metropolis to support their people, who could thereby supply themselves with agricultural and lake produce, as well as grasses, lake fauna, lime and timber, all of which was transported via communication routes that had been established long ago.
In Ocoyoacac, simple rooms and ceremonial areas were constructed that incorporated ideas, customs or fashions from Teotihuacan, which is reflected in the manufacture of vessels, figurines, objects for grinding and stone items discovered during site excavations.
Contact between the population of the Valley of Toluca and Teotihuacan is also evident from materials such as green obsidian (the trade in which was controlled by Teotihuacan at the time), as well as slate and pottery imported from the big city. Customs and rites were also adopted from there, such as the Mesoamerican ballgame, the way they buried their dead and the cults of Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc.
|Olintepec||This site was inhabited from 1500 BC up to the seventeenth century, serving as the center of government of the region, in one of the best irrigated parts of the present day state of Morelos. A great plaza and two sixteen-foot-high platforms testify to its past splendor.||The pre-Hispanic town of Olintepec was founded at the foot of the Cerro del Olinche beside the river Cuautla on the fertile soil of the valley ringed by the surrounding hills. The river Cuautla played an important role in Mesoamerican development as it linked the inhabitants of Olintepec with other peoples and regions. The inhabitants used the river to supply themselves with obsidian from the present day states of Mexico and Hidalgo, with valuable green stones from the Sierra Madre del Sur and salt from Puebla and the state of Mexico. The river also carried ideas which were adopted, adapted and transformed according to the needs of this settlement’s inhabitants, and this is how the dominant ideology of the time came to be assimilated.|
Around 1500 BC various farming villages were established in the valley, with huts made from perishable materials and built on mounds of earth close to the cultivated area. The people were united by close ties of parentage. Thus individuals were recognized as part of the group because they were descended from a common ancestor, who had acquired mythical qualities. They did not have a permanent ruler, although everyday and supernatural activities were directed by those who knew best how to carry them out.
Around 1200 BC social organization across the whole of Mesoamerica changed radically, including in Olintepec. This is when a governing class arose which utilized Olmec stylistic elements to mark their status and to differentiate itself from its peers. The early villages were abandoned and the population concentrated in the center of the valley. The nascent nobility, whose members spoke to supernatural beings and wore jaguar emblems, founded Olintepec around 1000 BC. Thus begun one of the site’s four peak stages, linked to the settlements of the same status such as Zazacatla and Chalcatzingo in the western and eastern region of Morelos respectively.
In the Late Preclassic (500-150 BC) the inhabitants erected a temple to their patron god on top of a pyramid. Each of the various modifications raised the height of this building until it reached 33 feet. It was built from gray stones with rounded edges coming from the river Cuautla. At this time Olintepec established relations with contemporary towns such as Cuicuilco in the Mexico basin, and even with some in Guerrero.
From 700 to 900 the inhabitants transferred the ceremonial center of the Cerro del Olinche with the aim of mimicking the great Epiclassic cities of this period such as Xochicalco, Cacaxtla and Teotenango. Nevertheless Olintepec was of lesser importance.
Around 1220, the arrival of Tlahuica groups in the territory marked the fourth peak stage of Olintepec. In fact these gave the site its Nahuatl name which has lasted to the present. The ceremonial center had 16 pyramidal temples grouped around various plazas with a central altar. The Palace of the Tlatoani was built on one of the pyramids. It remains to point out that only two of the structures can be visited: mounds 1 and 5 (see “Structures”). The rest are below the houses and infrastructure of Nueva Olintepec.
The Mexican empire conquered the Tlahuica territory when the Triple Alliance was formed in 1428. Just like the other fiefdoms of the eastern region, Olintepec paid tribute through the Tlahuica lord of Oaxtepec, which was the regional center imposed by the Triple Alliance.
After the conquest, Dominican friars arrived at the site and founded a chapel on top of the Palace of the Tlatoani. The town went into decline as a result of overexploitation by the Spanish and the decimation caused by their diseases. In 1603, the few survivors were gathered In Cuautla by the Spanish authorities. The town of Olintepec disappeared and its ancient history was dramatically broken.
|Oxkintok||This site offers calendar inscriptions, beautiful stone columns of anthropomorphic design, stelae, pyramids, a labyrinth which is scary to get lost in and a secret door to the underworld. Oxkintok is little known although it is one of the most important and longest occupied Mayan settlements in Yucatan.||The Oxkintok archeological site is situated 34 miles south of the city of Merida, Yucatan, in the municipality of Maxcanu, 2.5 miles east of the town of the same name. The site is 130 feet above sea level in the Puuc hills. Puuc in Maya means hill.|
This site was known as Maxacan or Tzat Tun Tzat. It underwent its stage of development and political expansion during the Early Classic (300-550). The basis for its dominance was its location as an important point on the trade routes between the Peninsula and other regions such as the Gulf of Mexico and the Central Highlands. This was the period when the majority of its Early Oxkintok style pyramids and palaces were built, demonstrating advanced knowledge of building methods.
A change known as the Oxkintok regional phase occurred at the end of the Early Classic in the sixth century heralding the development of the Puuc region specifically. At this moment it became a wealthy and prosperous city, with monumental architecture, abundant sculpture and royal tombs. A new stage of development arose, which is manifest in the architectural style known as Proto-Puuc, an example of which is the change from stepped vaults to jutting flagstones and new and improved stoneworking techniques.
According to the inscriptions, in the early eighth century, during the Late Classic period, there was a ruler called Walas. The evidence points to this ruler establishing a strong process of centralization. The Puuc tradition was predominant around the Terminal Classic (850-1000). The city began to lose its status and it is thought that the regional seat of power transferred to Uxmal. Postclassic occupation (1000-1450) can be noted from the renovation of the palace facades, the construction of shrines and the leaving of offerings, including incense burners.
The site is characterized by its structures laid out on large plinths in the shape of a great “L” oriented from northeast to southeast. Some of the architectural groups are linked by a wide network of sacbeoob, the Mayan white roads or pathways.
In addition to what is known as the Central Core there is evidence of minor structures, caves (actuns), cisterns (chultuns) and stelae dispersed across the whole site. The site’s best known groups are Ah Camul, Ah May, Ah Dzib and the structure known as Satunsat or the Labyrinth. Together these make up the Great Plaza.
|Oxtankah||The largest and most important city of Chetumal bay. Its inhabitants were skilled navigators who paddled their canoes along the canals of the region and ventured into the Caribbean to trade. As well as the numerous structures, they built wells and “chultunes” (cisterns) for the supply of fresh water.|
The site is located in the far southeast of the state of Quintana Roo, ten miles north of Chetumal, the state capital.
Data obtained by the Oxtankah Archeological Project indicates that the city had its apogee between 250 and 600 AD, in the period known as the Early Classic. Its buildings underwent various modifications throughout this time. In the last of these it was decided to carry out a major expansion of the volume of various buildings and the terraces were linked on the facades of others. Also a variety of stucco murals were added to the facades with a series of signs and symbols. The murals were modeled and painted in detail with the aim of strengthening and communicating their ideology. This all points to the city attaining its highest population density in this period. The city continued to be inhabited later on in the Late Classic and Postclassic, but the evidence suggests that it was thinly populated at this time; instead it became a sanctuary where people would go to perform ceremonies, leaving various types of offerings.
|Pahñú||With an extraordinary view of the Mezquital Valley, Pañhú was contemporary with Teotihuacan, but developed separately and survived 400 years after the fall of the great metropolis. Little known, its study could help us to understand the origins of the Otomi groups.||Pahñu, meaning “hot road” in Otomi, was built around the year 350 and was part of the Xajay culture. At some point around the year 200 a group left the Chupícuaro-Mixtlán region close to Acámbaro, Guanajuato, heading east. During this migration the people recognized points in the landscape which had symbolic meaning, which guided them to establish their ceremonial sites. The most important among these symbolic sites was Cerro el Águila or Hualtepec, the birthplace of Huitzilopochtli.|
Five Xajay culture sites are known today, in the east of the state of Hidalgo: Zethé, Zidada, El Cerrito, Taxangú and Pahñu, which is the largest of these.
Pahñu is on the edge of a plateau overlooking a valley. There are four groups of structures and only the central one is open to the public. Access is via a narrow road with cliffs on both sides. The path leads to an open space and a rectangular structure and then onwards to the main plaza. When visitors walk this trail from south to north they are following a symbolic route in Otomi cosmology.
Straight ahead from the center of the main plaza there is a view of the principal pyramid dedicated to Huehueteotl-Xiuhtecuhtlica, who was the fire god dwelling at the center of the universe, the embodiment of celestial and cosmic fire. To the east can be seen the tecpan, or government palace, a smaller building where a series of benches survive used in ancient times by the Xajay governors when making political or religious decisions. On April 13 and 14, the sun rises just behind the central seat of the tecpan and it follows a trajectory marked by petroglyphs up to the point where the star rests. The main structure and the tecpan were used in two periods. The first, from 350 to 500, was a period of Xajay cultural independence, which is evident from the architectural styles of Pahñu. The second period began soon after the year 550, as a consequence of the new relationships and struggles which took place when Teotihuacan lost its position of dominance in central Mexico. At this juncture, contact between the groups which were on the move and Xajay groups led to changes in architecture, which were reflected in larger building that covered the original ones.
Pahñu was abandoned in the eleventh century when its inhabitants migrated towards the growing city of Tula.
|Palenque||A dazzling city (400 – 900 AD), it lay hidden in the jungle for many centuries, and was the seat of the powerful dynasty of king Pakal. It is home to fabulous temples, palaces, plazas, tombs, sculptures, and hieroglyphic inscriptions telling the history of the place. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987.||Palenque was one of the most important cities in the Mayan region during the Classic period from 250 to 900 AD. Originally, this site was a village of farmers and hunters, which eventually became the capital of a powerful dynasty dominating an extensive region. Construction of the buildings in the central area of the city began around the year 431, as did intensive long distance trade. Textual analysis shows that nine male governors and two women ruled between 345 and 603. It is reckoned that Palenque reached its peak between 615 and 783. The platforms, ceremonial groups, plazas, palaces, aqueducts, mausoleums and residential units are all reflections of the city’s power. These architectural groupings allow us to make deductions about the politico-administrative, ritual or residential functions of this great city. It is believed that around the year 800 it had a population of close to 8,000. Thereafter the city began to decline and it was abandoned a century later, without evidence of a clear reason for its fall.|
At the end of the eighteenth century, the first European to publicize the existence of Palenque appears to have been Canon Ramón Ordóñez y Aguiar, a priest in the Royal City of Chiapas, now known as San Cristóbal de Las Casas. His great-uncle Antonio de Solís had been the first Spaniard to visit Palenque in around 1730, but the fact only came to light 40 years later when Ordóñez told several people about it. Among those he told was Esteban Gutiérrez, who travelled to the site in 1773; Fernando Gómez de Andrade, the mayor of the Royal City, also went, as did Tomás Luis de Roca, the Prior Provincial of the Dominicans. In turn, they all informed José de Estachería, president of the Audiencia of Guatemala, who ordered the first official exploration that would lead to Palenque opening up to the western world. In 1784 Estachería ordered the lieutenant José Antonio Calderón, residing in the new town of Palenque, to carry out the first inspection visit of the pre-Hispanic city. In his report Calderón told of his three-day journey in heavy rain guided by the local indigenous people. When he received Calderón’s report, Estachería ordered Antonio Bernasconi, the architect of royal works in Guatemala, to set out with José Calderón on a new expedition to the site in 1785.
Several plans and drawings were made of the buildings, as well as sketches of the reliefs modeled in stucco. At the end of 1786, King Carlos III ordered the investigation of the native cultural remains to continue. Since Bernasconi had died, Estachería commissioned Captain Antonio del Río to undertake the task at Palenque. Del Río reached the city at the end of 1787 accompanied by the draftsman Ricardo Armendáriz. In his report he tells of how he cleared and burnt the undergrowth with the help of 79 Indians, as well as carrying out various excavations of the buildings, perhaps the first methodical excavations reported at the site.
The era of explorers and romantic travelers began at the start of the nineteenth century, and the wild imagination of the eighteenth century visitors was replaced with a more realistic understanding of the pre-Hispanic city. Nevertheless, unsystematic excavations led to the destruction of context and the loss of artifacts to foreign museums.
This stage began with the journey of Captain Guillermo Dupaix and the draftsman Guillermo Castañeda in 1805, sent by Carlos IV to explore the south of New Spain. His reports and drawings were forgotten about, as the War of Independence broke out very shortly afterwards. Upon his departure Dupaix took one of the three stones which make up the Tablet of the Cross, which was later returned to the Mexican government by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. The report by Dupaix, who was possibly the first identifiable looter in Palenque, was not published until 1934.
Excavations continued and in 1952 the archeologist Alberto Ruz Lhuillier discovered the Temple of the Inscriptions, the rich and revealing tomb of the great lord Pakal (K’inich Janaab’ Pakal, “radiant janaab bird standard bearer”), the most notable and sensational in Mexican archeology for many years.
|Palma Sola||Ceremonial center of the ancient inhabitants (800 BC-750 AD) of the present-day state of Guerrero, in the high ground above Acapulco bay, where 18 impressive carved rocks, depicting myths, personages, the natural environment, agricultural cults and calendars can be seen.|