184 Zonas
Clave / IDNombreResumen ENDescripción ENSabías qué EN
PaquiméThis site is famous for its adobe constructions and its T-shaped doors, which demonstrates the architectural skills of its ancient inhabitants. Toward the west of the city there is a row of structures built with stone and mortar which were probably coated in painted lime, and functioned as a ceremonial center.Paquimé is located in the north of Mexico, in the geographical region of the Chihuahua Desert, where the Casas Grandes, Santa María and El Carmen rivers act as the arteries of life. In 1998, it was enrolled in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as its remains tell us not only about the cultural value of this archeological site, but also provide a unique and exceptional testimony of the connections between Mesoamerica and the north of Mexico. They provide an excellent example of the building’s typological development and architectural design.

The traces of a history framed in a magnificent setting of earthen architecture are found here. This history began around the year 600 AD with the first trench house villages, located near the natural springs in the riverside areas. These villages were abandoned around the year 900 and substituted for buildings made from clay, or mud, walls. The first multi-family sites are houses with internal courtyards used as domestic areas and workshops.

Thanks to the development of irrigation agriculture in around the year 1200, the wealth acquired allowed for the architectural development of the family unit and building began for a population center comprised of large family settlements up to three floors in height with storerooms, living areas, bedrooms and reception rooms, intended for use by the ruling class. Workshops were also built for craftspeople and temples for religious worship, squares for markets, ballgame courts and hydraulic systems with wells and canals, for the convenience of the village.

During this period, trade with the peoples further north and the cultures of Western Mexico considerably increased regional interaction, and various artisan trades prospered. They imported macaw from the south, turquoise and copper objects from the north, salt from the Samalayuca desert and shells from various animal species traded from the Pacific coasts. They exported high value luxury objects to these same regions: polychromatic ceramic, anthropomorphous vases or figurines, and turquoise and copper objects, as well as raw clay, among many other materials. Today, these are exhibited in the Museum of Northern Cultures located in the same archeological area.
  • The buildings in Paquimé present elements which are characteristic of both Oasisamerica and Central Mexico.
  • Montículo de la Cruz (“Mound of the Cross”) was used to record the equinoxes and the solstices which marked the harvest cycles.
  • The Museum of Northern Cultures houses a magnificent collection which not only reveals the most important cultural aspects of Paquimé, but also its prehistory.
PeraltaOne of the largest sites in the Bajío region (330-750 AD), there is still a mystery about the ethnic origin of the people who inhabited it. The magnificent architecture is monumental, suggesting a ceremonial center.This site, which is dispersed across the foothills of the Peralta mountain and the banks of the Lerma River, stood out in the pre-Hispanic era due to its agriculture. The land around the site and the traces of hundreds of terraces on the northern hillside of the mountain which gives the site its name are manifestations of this activity. Furthermore, its proximity to the Lerma suggests that a large amount of lake resources would have been available, supplementing the diet of the former inhabitants. Deposits of obsidian and rhyolite in the nearby mountains of Pénjamo and Abasolo are also thought to have contributed to the development of these groups. The area reached its peak between the years 300 and 650 AD.

Peralta has more than 20 groups of structures. However, in the central area, El Divisadero (“The Lookout Point”) and La Mesita (“The Little Table”) stand out; both have been fully excavated. El Divisadero comprises a plaza which is marked out by two temples and a pathway leading to rooms. Remains of adobe walls can be seen above the foundations, whilst the closed square created an enclosed setting for ceremonial and ritual activities.

La Mesita, whose foundations measure almost 500 feet on each side, contains various architectural elements inside. The central courtyard is one example, where hundreds of people could come together, as well as a structure with a circular base, a tradition from outside the Bajío region. Interestingly, this feature is more closely linked to sites in the present-day state of Jalisco. Another architectural element worth mentioning is the rooms along the interior pathways on the northern and eastern sides of the structure, which functioned as residences for elite groups and, possibly, as storage areas.

The Cerrito de Celestino and Yóstiro archeological remains are also part of the site, but they are now embedded within the modern urban area and are not open to visitors. The domestic area is situated on the Peralta mountain, however, and is where daily work practices were carried out. These ruined complexes all stand on smaller plinths and have been given names such as La Joyita (“The Little Gem”), La Crucita (“The Little Cross”), El Fraile (“The Friar”), Los Nogales (“The Walnuts”), Los Corrales (“The Stockyards”), and La Tinaja (“The Clay Pot”).

In 2002, the INAH entrusted the archeological work in Peralta to Efraín Cárdenas García, who took on responsibility for extensively excavating and restoring the two main sites and opening them to the public in 2008. His investigation also intended to analyse Peralta’s location in relation to its neighbouring sites, both on a small scale and larger regional scale. He further sought to study the construction system, building use, the definition of the settlement pattern and record of the local variants within a regional context. He also studied the site’s flora and fauna.

In the archeological site’s museum it is possible to view objects which mark out Peralta as a society which actively participated in the exchange of goods with other groups from both near and far.
  • It is one of the largest archeological sites in the present-day state of Guanajuato.
  • The top of the pyramidal plinths can be accessed via a large staircase of which only the first steps remain on the building facades facing the square.
  • The majority of the buildings have a dry core made from black basalt, and are clad in the same material, bonded together with clay and vegetable fibres.
PlazuelasOne of the most complex cities of the region, found in the southern foothills of the Pénjamo Range. It stands out because of its integration with the countryside (it was carefully built to preserve the harmony of its surroundings). Plazas, palaces, sculpture and thousands of splendid stone carvings await the visitor.This archeological site gets its name from its location in the outskirts of the Las Plazuelas community (San Juan el Alto) in the town of Pénjamo, Guanajuato. It is comprised of seven buildings constructed on three hillsides, which are separated by two ravines: the Los Cuijes ravine to the west and the Agua Nacida ravine to the east.

The westernmost hillside has a simple ballgame court which is connected to a series of residential terraces. On the easternmost hillside, four more complex buildings stand out: Los Cuitzillos, which is comprised of three pyramidal plinths with an open plaza to the south; El Cajete, with a circular floor plan; La Crucita, a small pyramid set on a rocky outcrop and, finally, El Cobre, comprised of two structures which delimit a small quadrangular plaza.

The central hillside is the one that is open for public visits. The largest and most complex building of Plazeulas was built here, known locally as Casas Tapadas (“Covered Houses”). Parts of a four-room house were discovered to the northeast of this hillside. Three of the rooms enclose a quadrangular courtyard open towards the ravine. The other room must have been used to prepare food as fragments of kitchen utensils were found among the debris.

A series of engravings can be seen on the rocky outcrop near the ravines. Carved in low relief, there are concavities, straight lines, curved lines, simple or concentric circles and various spirals. Some rocks also depict architectural elements, such as pyramid bases, rooms with inner courtyards, plazas, ballgame courts, terraces and entry passages. La Maqueta (“The Model”) is of particular interest as it depicts the Casas Tapadas building.

The city reached its peak between the years 450 and 700 AD. The city was later burned, destroyed and deconsecrated, but remained in people’s memory as a mythical place of ancestral worship.

Despite advances in the excavations, Plazuelas continues to be a place of great mystery. The building’s design and embellishments evoke, time and time again, the ancient worship of the gods who personified water, earth, fire and wind, essential elements for the reproduction of life. The attributes of Tlaloc, the god of rain and lord of the agricultural seasons, are highlighted among these. What’s more, the combination of carved stones and architectural depictions of nearby and distant regions confirms that this region brings together the complexity of various Mesoamerican people’s ways of thinking.
  • The archeological project in Plazuelas, led by the archeologist Carlos Casteñeda, began in 1997. The site opened to the public in March 2006.
  • There are more than 1,000 petroglyphs with diverse symbols around the area.
  • Around 20 sculptures with representations of lightning were found around the eastern plinth.
PomonáRich stelae, sculptures, tablets, and hieroglyphic inscriptions allow us to learn about its governors and the relations it had with other cities in the region. An independent political entity (600-800 AD), it played a vital role in the trade along the Usumacinta River.The archeological site of Pomoná—or Pakbul to give the name found in the hieroglyphs—is located in an area where mountain and plains ecosystems meet. This makes it a key site for studying the ability of the Maya to adapt and thrive, which enabled them to achieve a significant level of socio-political development in their territory in the Classic period. Pomoná is notable for its contribution to Mayan history, as can be seen from the variety of important monuments with inscriptions telling of its political relations with the great Mayan fiefdoms of the period, such as Palenque.

The status of this pre-Hispanic settlement was consolidated between 600 and 800, when it became an independent political entity, and whose location enabled it to play a dominant role in cultural exchanges between contemporary sites on the upper and lower Usumacinta. This brought with it the subservience of sites such as Panjale, Boca del Cerro and Chinikiha, and territorial wars with the kingdoms of Palenque, Piedras Negras and La Mar.

The site occupies a 470-acre strip of land identifiable by the hillocks close to the left bank of the Usumacinta River, which is where the plains of Tabasco end and the foothills of the north Chiapas uplands begin.

The layout of the city is dispersed, using the higher land above the flood level, where six major groups of buildings can be found, of which only Group 1 has been investigated to date.

Among the most important finds is the "tombstone of the scribe," the stela of a high dignitary, a mask of the sun-jaguar god of the underworld, eccentric flint knives, the bust of a Mayan personage, the carved tablets of Building 4 and the figure of an old man with a beard and hat. All these items are currently on display in the Pomoná Site Museum.
  • The site is about 5 miles to the north of the final outcrop of limestone from the tertiary period, which is where the ancient Maya took their material for buildings and sculptural monuments.
QuiahuiztlánA Totonaco settlement (900–1521 AD), with a marvellous view of the coastal plain, it was dominated first by the Toltecas and later by the Mexicas. Both city, cemetery (78 tombs were found) and fortress, this was where Hernán Cortés formed an alliance in order to conquer the Tenochca empire.
RanasIts strategic geographic location allowed it to control trade routes, as well as to exploit the great diversity of ecological and mineral resources found in the region.Las Ranas nestles in the southwestern Sierra Gorda, at one of the highest points of the municipality of San Joaquín. Surrounded by ravines and with a sole access point on the west side, it occupies the upper part of two hills which join to form a square. The ruggedness of the landscape led it to develop its own settlement pattern, which stands out on account of the location of its minor settlements. Las Ranas was part of a highland culture, which gave rise to a singular architectural style, ceramics and cultural practices.

Its inhabitants planned the city, selecting the location, determining the most efficient land use of the 37-acre site, and the optimal location of buildings. Traces have been found of more than 180, including two ballcourts, of which roughly 15 percent have been restored.

The economy of the towns of the Sierra Gorda was based on a mixture of productive activities, with the most notable being mining, hunting and gathering and seasonal agriculture. Las Ranas was linked to the extraction of cinnabar, a mineral which played a significant role because of the high demand for the pigment among Mesoamerican peoples.

The tasks of maintenance, restoration and investigation of the archeological site began in 1975 and they continue to the present, owing to the large size of the site.
  • Las Ranas has 14 pre-Hispanic mine entrances.
  • This is the largest-scale mining area in the Sierra Gorda.
  • There is an extraordinary view from the highest structures.
  • The exploitation of cinnabar, a dark red mineral highly valued in Mesoamerica, was a source of wealth.
San Felipe de los AlzatiAn important control point for protection of the Purépecha territory at the border with the Mexicas, populated by the Otomies, their allies, situated on top of the Zirahuatohill and adjoining mountains. Elegant remains of their constructions in the midst of a natural green area.Flourished from the eighth to fifteenth centuries of the current era and formed part of the same culture that settled in the Valley of Toluca, that of the Matlatzinca. Historical sources, including the Historia Antigua de México (Ancient History of Mexico) by the Jesuit Francisco Javier Clavijero, mention that this region was occupied by the aforementioned group, and the field of archeology has confirmed this. For this reason, the site does not display the architectural features typical of the Tarascan area seen in places such as Tzintzuntzan or Ihuatzio. Here, there is a lack of mixed-plan structures, and there are pyramids built in superimposed sections which have stairways in the middle leading to plazas at different levels.

At the height of its splendor, this archeological zone occupied a surface area of 128 acres that extended beyond the area now open to visitors, which makes it the most important zone in the east of the state of Michoacán found to date, besides being the only National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) site open to the public in this area. Its geographic location was significant at the time in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica.

The site has two names, as the land it lies on belongs to two communities. One is Zirahuato, which means “cold hill” in Tarascan, and the other is San Felipe Calvario. However, it became popular to add the surnames of certain local heroes to indigenous or colonial names at the end of the nineteenth century. Therefore, the first is known as Zirahuato de los Bernal (after Félix and Arturo Bernal) and San Felipe lost Calvario to become San Felipe de los Alzati in honor of José María, Marcos and Darío Alzati, figures who fought heroically for the Republican cause during the time of Maximilian’s empire. The Alzati were from the district of Zitácuaro. Colonel José María Alzati was General Vicente Riva Palacio’s right-hand man and fought alongside his brothers for the Republic until winning victory.

The mounds that have not yet been explored suggest the existence of a ballcourt, as well as buildings such as palaces and residential areas. A first archeological exploration of the site occurred in 1963, when Román Piña Chan responded to a report of looting at the top of the north face. Formal exploration began in 1973 under the guidance of archeologists Otto Schöndube Baumbach, Ramón Carrasco and Estela Peña Delgado. Archeological and ethnohistoric research has enabled us to locate four architectural complexes to date, of which two have been exposed: the Great Pyramid and the residential area.

The ceremonial center lies at the foot of the Zirahuato volcano. The lowest part of the hill is 6,332 feet and the highest is 6,889 feet above sea level. Advantage was taken of the terrain’s topographical features when building the site, as its structures stand upon a natural elevation artificially modified through retaining walls. The material used was volcanic stone. Flat stones were placed on the outside, and carved rocks were used for the stairs and some corners.

Petroglyphs can be seen throughout the archeological site. A recurring shape in these is the spiral, which can also be observed on some faces of the main pyramid. It is believed to symbolize observation of the sun’s movement. There is also a hieroglyphic symbol which represents Tezcatlipoca, the great lord of sky and earth, a significant deity in Mexica society.
  • The Great Pyramid is the highest structure explored to date in the state of Michoacán.
  • The passage of groups of merchants was controlled from here to guarantee the trade in products from the center of Mexico to the west and viceversa.
  • It was also a strategic point for defending the territory.
San GervasioThe principal Maya city on the island of Cozumel, founded 17 centuries ago, it was part of the intense trade and political network of Chichen Itza. The housing and religious complexes explored to date, together with the altars and pyramids, testify to its importance.The chronicler Diego López de Cogolludo and the Chilam Balam of Chumayel mention various Mayan settlements on the island at the time the Spanish arrived. One such well-known place or neighborhood was Tantum or Tantun. However it is not known for sure whether it was one and the same as the ancient pre-Hispanic city we know today as San Gervasio.

Archeological work carried out on the site since the 1970s has enabled it to be dated to around the year 300. A rapid process of growth began nearly 300 years later, marked by the appearance of both perishable and higher quality buildings, and by the possible strengthening of ties with the coastal sites of the north coast of Quintana Roo.

San Gervasio seems to have grown significantly after 1000, and the fact that it flourished from 1200 up to the arrival of the Spanish may have been influenced by the rise of Chichen Itza as the great political and economic center of the peninsula. The settlement became the largest on the island during this final period, which saw the construction of the majority of the buildings visible today. At the same time a network of lesser towns emerged, possibly related to San Gervasio, and located across the whole island. Cozumel was densely populated when the Spanish arrived, and it played a key role in the first stage of the conquest.
  • The Conquistadors decided to celebrate the first Catholic mass in Mexico on Cozumel.
San Lorenzo TenochtitlanA very ancient and populous Olmec city. Strategically located along land and river transport routes. Enormous stone boulders were brought from the Sierra de los Tuxtlas, a volcanic mountain range, to make sculptures of colossal heads and thrones. The site began to be abandoned 29 centuries ago.

San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán was an Olmec city that commanded land and river transport routes. It occupied a large tropical island, bordered by navigable rivers and extensive floodplains in the lower basin of the Coatzacalcos River. The oldest period of occupation comprises two phases, the Ojochi phase and the Bajío phase, lasting from 1500 to 1200 BC.

The population grew dramatically between 1200 and 850 BC, and activities related to production and subsistence also increased, with a progressive interest in the cultivation of corn. One of the most remarkable construction activities was the alteration of the very land where San Lorenzo is located; millions of cubic meters of sedimentary infill were moved to reshape the site, creating multi-level terraces for habitation around the highest point of the site. Excavation of the housing areas shows an important social differentiation that is reflected in the construction techniques, some with basalt columns and red pigment floors, while other constructions are modest and were made with wood, clay and floors of local stone. In the perimeter of the housing areas evidence was found of productive activities such as obsidian implements, reuse of the basalt stone, the use of chapopote (tar) as a resin and glue, as well as areas that indicate animal butchering and food preparation areas.

Sculptures such as thrones and colossal heads carved from volcanic rock brought to the site from the Sierra de los Tuxtlas are another characteristic of San Lorenzo. It is possible that the colossal heads formed a straight line from north to south on the east side of the principal plaza.

Before 900 BC, San Lorenzo’s population had grown to 13,000, but the city and surrounding areas began to be abandoned between 900 and 850 BC; warfare, disease, and environmental change probably contributed to this process. By 850 to 600 BC, during the Nacastre phase, just 500 people were living in the area.

San Miguel IxtapanSan Miguel Ixtapan is an elegant city founded around 1900 years ago in the middle of rich salt deposits. It was occupied first by the Otomies and latterly by the Mexica. It has a great ballcourt next to an artificial platform where human burial remains with rich offerings have been found, including fine stone and ceramic figures.The site is in the southwest region of the State of Mexico, where it is the only site that has been explored intensively. As a result there is a significant body of knowledge on the site today, which had previously been practically unstudied.

The first stage of occupation of San Miguel Ixtapan took place during the Classic period (450-750), with the second in the Epiclassic (750-900). The site reached its apogee in this stage and this was when the principal monuments were built. Subsequently around the Early Postclassic (900-1200), the buildings were reused, involving significant architectural modifications, consisting of dividing walls and extensions. Between 100 and 150 years later (1200-1521), the Mexica reoccupied part of the site, building on the ruins of the previous structures.

A pre-Hispanic scale model of a complex ceremonial center carved from a basalt outcrop by the ancient inhabitants was rescued in the first excavations carried out by staff from the INAH Regional Center in the State of Mexico from 1985 to 1986.

Given the evident importance of the site, the then Mexican Cultural Institute (now the Ministry of Culture), set up a more wide-ranging project. This included the purchase of land, as well as suitable protection for the scale model and increased excavation to uncover the remains of structures which had been detected above ground.

A large quantity of pieces of exceptional importance and artistic quality have been found over several seasons. Also the structures making up the settlement have been revealed, consolidated and restored. The Ballcourt, Platform 1, Mounds One and Two, the Sunken Patio and the Vaulted Precinct stand out.

All the archeological finds are exhibited in the site museum, which opened in March 1995.
  • A room was found in Mound Two which the archeologists have named the Sculptural Precinct because of the various basalt and green stone figures found there.
  • A large quantity of human remains with rich offerings were discovered in Platform One.
San MiguelitoAn ancient city, eight centuries old, where explorers found an impressive palace of the god Chaac, almost 50 burial sites and a great variety of artefacts, some local and others imported from afar (made of obsidian, quartz, ceramic, coral and conch shell), testifying to its commercial importance.The site is accessed by a pathway which starts from the lower hallway of the Cancun Archeological Museum. San Miguelito consists of at least four groups made up principally of structures which supported timber and palm houses long ago. It is thought that large families lived there during the final years before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors.

The site’s most important complexes are presided over by palaces with large interior spaces and vestibules with columns supporting flat roofs, which were a novel architectural feature of buildings on the east coast of Quintana Roo during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. As they had open precincts, these buildings served a public purpose. They were equipped with benches and they faced an altar at which public ceremonies and celebrations were held.

The most important structure in San Miguelito is a base which was remodeled at least three times during its pre-Hispanic occupation. Upon this are preserved the remains of a temple which was once decorated with a cornice and painted mainly in red and blue. The base has a stairway with balustrades typical of the Postclassic period, and judging by the direction the pyramid is facing, it would appear to be related to the nearby site of El Rey.

The complex has managed to combine the original vegetation of San Miguelito with the gardens of the Cancun Archeological Museum, and so visitors can walk from one to the other, which is very pleasing.
  • San Miguelito is the most important archeological site in Cancun.
  • The bones of infants found there suffered poverty and hunger as a result of the conquest: all show signs of acute anemia.
  • San Miguelito and El Rey most likely formed a single area with well-established commercial activity.
Santa Cecilia AcatitlánIn an important area of lakes, dependant on Tenayuca, the Chichimeca capital. There is an important reconstructed teocalli surmounted by a temple, originally an earlier construction than the Great Teocalli of Tenochtitlan. It also houses a large collection of stone sculptures in the Mexica tradition.
Santa Rosa XtampakA preeminent Maya city, the capital of the Chenes for 850 years, it began to decline a millennium ago. Its monumental architecture, sculpture and pottery are incomparable in the region. Jade, obsidian and salt were brought here from Guatemala, central Mexico and the Yucatan peninsula.

Santa Rosa Xtampak is one of the most important Mayan cities in northeastern Campeche. The labor required to build and maintain its pyramids, palaces and temples points to the existence of a solid political structure that controlled a wide region. The rulers also ordered the creation of official inscriptions on the stelae and paintings found on various chambers; they established long-distance trade links and played an important role in the area, especially during the Late Classic (600-900 AD). The eight stelae registered at the site to date bear dates ranging from 646 to 911 AD.

The name of the archeological site combines two words: Santa Rosa, the name of a nineteenth-century hacienda, where pre-Hispanic remains or “xlabpak” (old walls in Yucatec Mayan) were found. The placename was used throughout the nineteenth century (when it was known as Xlabpak de Santa Rosa), and in the following century it was modified to Santa Rosa Xtampak (“opposite the wall,” “exposed wall”), in reference to the walls conserved on one of the main buildings.

The remains of this Mayan city are located at the top of a hill, which was leveled in various parts and given terraced slopes in order to enable the construction of around a hundred masonry buildings, many on a monumental scale, and these created several regularly distributed square patios and plazas.

Eight stelae have been found at Santa Rosa Xtampak, as well as an altar and several painted vault covers containing invaluable information in their images and hieroglyphic inscriptions. Therefore we know that the earliest date yet recorded is 646 AD (Stela 5), although preliminary analyses of the pottery indicate that the settlement existed several centuries before the Common Era. The most recent date—948 AD—was discovered by specialists on the cover of a vault in the Palace building. The pottery artefacts also point to a diminished occupation by the Post Classic (1000-1500 AD), before the site was completely abandoned before the Europeans landed on the peninsula.

Chenes is the predominant architectural style in Santa Rosa Xtampak, where the constructions are noted for their large mask decorations that partially or completely cover the main facades. The motifs were created using specially cut stone mosaics that were then coated in stucco and painted in various colors, above all red. Many of the buildings combine smooth wall surfaces with columns set into the walls or corners. The many entrances are usually formed by masonry columns or pillars. The arch vaults generally begin directly from the vertical wall supporting them, almost without leaving even the slightest set back or soffit. The internal setbacks over the lintels are also common features.

Water was supplied using an extensive system of chultuns or underground cisterns for rainwater collection. Evan DeBloois studied 67 chultuns and by calculating the maximum rainwater collection capacity, conservative estimates suggest that the city could have supported an average population of 10,000 inhabitants.

The site was first brought to the world’s attention by the explorers Frederick Catherwood and John L. Stephens, who visited it in the mid-nineteenth century. Soon before the end of that century, Teobert Maler conducted a more detailed survey of the remains. In the 1930s and 40s, various researchers from the Carnegie Institution, led by Harry Pollock, carried out archeological work at Santa Rosa. In the late 1960s, Richard Stamps and Evan DeBloois, of the Brigham Young University in Utah, recorded and analyzed the site’s architecture, ceramics and chultuns. More specialists arrived in the 1980s: George Andrews (University of Oregon) and Paul Gendrop (UNAM) carried out architectural studies, while William Folan and Abel Morales (Autonomous University of Campeche) came to draw up plans of the settlement’s layout. In the 1990s, Nicholas Hellmuth produced a highly detailed photographic record of the buildings still standing; Hasso Hohmann and Erwin Heine made a photogrammetric study of the Palace and carried out some initial architectural restoration works under the supervision of Antonio Benavides C. In the beginning of the twenty-first century, Renée Zapata coordinated a maintenance program for some of the main constructions.

  • For 850 years, the former settlement of Santa Rosa Xtampak underwent an admirably well-ordered urban expansion.
  • The site’s decline seems to have begun between 1000 and 1200 AD. However, it continued to be an important landmark for local inhabitants.
  • The architectural, ceramic, pictorial and epigraphic elements found at the site lead us to believe that it was the capital of the Chenes region, and maintained close ties with other, very different areas.
  • The Chenes and Río Bec styles used in writing and decorative elements suggest that these were used to express the power of the city's inhabitants.
SayilNotable settlement in the Puuc region, with examples of the particularly fine Puuc architectural style. Remarkable for the Great Palace or North Palace, which displays portions of consistent facades erected at successive stages, over a period of twelve centuries.The city of Sayil was built at the end of the Late Classic and early Terminal Classic (800-950), in a valley with good farming land. It is estimated that it extended to an area of three square miles that during its occupation in the eighth and ninth centuries had a population of approximately 10,000. The archeological evidence suggests that the inhabitants of Sayil initially settled just over a mile from the North Palace on a site known as Chaak II, which possesses one of the few natural water sources in the region, in the cave of Chaak.

The fact that the ancient Maya preferred to settle in a valley with more fertile soil tells us how important farming was to them. A good proportion of the inhabitants of Sayil and of the Puuc region generally were farmers, who cultivated gardens in the city and fields in the neighboring valleys.

Stelae were erected on the site representing the important lords, who were probably the rulers. Nevertheless, the archeological evidence suggests that the lords at least partially shared political and religious power with other lineages.
  • In the bowels of the Great Palace there is a buried courtyard, while in the rooms on the lower levels there are niches that reproduce—on a micro scale—its columned porticos.
  • In the 1980s it was thought that El Mirador and the buildings around it corresponded to the city market. This hypothesis was later refuted by chemical analysis of the soil.
  • It is possible that the inhabitants of Sayil lived in houses made of stone rather than perishable materials, as in most sites.
  • In 1914, Inspector Juan Martínez Hernández visited Sayil and found one Gregorio Caamal living in the rooms of the second level of the Palace.
Sierra de San FranciscoThe area has some of the richest and most ancient cave paintings in the world. Dating back 8,800 years, these prehistoric paintings are in gullies, ravines and caves. They are remarkable for their size, quality and condition. The cave paintings were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.The Baja California peninsula has one of the most extraordinary arrays of cave paintings in the country. It remained virtually unexplored and isolated until way into the twentieth century, which kept the indigenous peoples relatively apart from mainland influences, allowing complex local cultures to develop. The mass production of rock art since very ancient times is one of the most notable features of the prehistory of the peninsula.

The Sierra of San Francisco reaches a height of 5,200 feet above sea level. The most spectacular and best conserved sites are contained in an area covering of approximately 1,390 square miles. This provided the best conditions for hunter-gatherer groups to thrive from the late Pleistocene, 10,000 years before the present, until the arrival of Jesuit missionaries at the end of the seventeenth century. The beauty of the countryside and the vegetation of the canyons and mesas add to the aesthetic value of the art.

The numerous and highly varied painted surfaces are extraordinarily well preserved. Their creators succeeded in producing imagery which demonstrates to us that small scale societies with economies based hunting, fishing and gathering were capable of developing sophisticated systems of symbols, which to a large extent reflect their world view. The style is essentially realistic and is dominated by figures of humans, terrestrial and aquatic animals designed in red, black, white and yellow. Very often the largest images are larger than life. Their monumental size is accentuated by the fact that the paintings are often located high up on the slabs and overhangs of rock shelters. The overlaying of figures is very common. There is also an abundance of petroglyph sites which bring together thousands of individual figures.

The Jesuits were the first to describe the “great murals” in the eighteenth century, although it was not till later that Harry Crosby, the US historian and photographer, coined this expression, which has been widely accepted. Leon Diguet, an industrial chemist working in the French El Boleo copper mine in Santa Rosalía, explored the Sierras of San Francisco and Guadalupe in 1894.

Archeological work on the Sierra indicates that the practices of painting and engraving lasted for a long period of time and were of essential importance to the indigenous world view. European chroniclers and missionaries recorded some ritual practices and the artifacts used in these. A few of these artifacts have been recognized in the rock paintings and have also been found in the archeological excavations of the site.

Walkways, protective rails, fences, access paths and information signs have been installed to protect the integrity of the site and to avoid the deterioration of the paintings in the most visited great mural sites which can be visited by road or with short walks, and which require a permit to visit. There are other sites which also require a permit to visit and can be reached by mule or by a trek, in which case it is necessary to camp in the areas designated specifically for this purpose. There is an INAH information module in the city of San Ignacio which serves a dual purpose: as a photographic exhibition gallery and as a booking and orientation center for visitors to the Sierra.
  • Close to 800 rock art sites are recorded in the Sierra of San Francisco, and the neighboring Sierra of Guadalupe.
  • The state of conservation of the rock paintings is very good owing to the nature of the region’s geology and to the dry weather.
  • The Jesuits who visited the “great mural” sites were under the impression that the paintings were “old.”
  • The local Cochimi people have said they had no knowledge of their origins, attributing them to an ancient now-disappeared race of giants who came from the north.


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