|Clave / ID||Nombre||Resumen EN||Descripción EN||Sabías qué EN|
|Cuicuilco||The Xitle volcano of the Ajusco range erupted in about 250 AD, spewing out lava that covered up much of the Valley of Mexico’s first major city, one which had existed for a thousand years with its unique truncated cone pyramids. Today we can still marvel at what remains.|
An important city in the Valley of Mexico, perhaps the first and most powerful of that time. Founded in around 2100 BC, near the Zacatépetl mountain range and Chalco lake. In its earliest phase it was a group of agricultural and fishing villages. By 800 BC, however, it seems to have transformed into a complex city and a hub for trade, as it lay at the intersection of routes leading to the valleys of Toluca and Morelos. It was undoubtedly a religious center, with the old god of fire, Huehueteotl, occupying an important place in the pantheon. This sacred aspect of the site is evident from the name later given to it by the Mexica: "the place of song and dance."
Everything pointed to a promising future, as there was no shortage of supplies or natural resources. The settlement also produced a variety of finely crafted ceramics; discoveries have been made of splendid artefacts from three periods (between 600 and 200 BC), particularly the tripods with lids shaped like a bird’s head. Cuicuilco possibly competed commercially with the nascent Teotihuacan, until Xitle, a volcano in the Ajusco range, became active in around the year 250 AD. We know that the volcano began by sending up gas and ash into the atmosphere, before a devastating eruption took place. A thick layer of lava expanded widely, covering both the city and the surrounding landscape—the present-day Pedregal de San Ángel district. The eruption was so violent that it affected an area of nearly 1,000 acres, and in places the lava layer was up to 33 feet thick. The survivors scattered; many appear to have sought refuge in Teotihuacan.
The remains of Cuicuilco include the Great Pyramid with its elliptical base, constructed between 800 and 600 BC (Zone A); the Circular Mound of Peña Pobre (Zone B); the Pyramid of Tenantongo in the Bosque de Tlalpan park (Zone B), and the circular-based construction now found in the Olympic Village (Zone C). Mexico City’s subsequent expansion—particularly in the twentieth century—has led to modern constructions being built over much of the land where, deep underground, there may remain vestiges of the pre-Hispanic city. This has made it very difficult for any further explorations and discoveries to be made. However, archeological work in the lava-free areas (Zone A) has revealed some weapons (the “atlatl” or dart gun), obsidian objects, and stone beads; some burial sites have also been found, containing the remains of human bodies curled up and with cranial deformations.
Manuel Gamio led the first explorations of Cuicuilco’s Great Pyramid in 1915 and 1920, enabling the site to be located with some precision. He continued excavations between 1922 and 1925, assisted by Byron Cummings and with the support of the University of Arizona and the National Geographic Society, always focusing on the main pyramid. In the 1930s, Eduardo Noriega excavated the surrounding area and found vaulted chambers, burials, ceramics, and altars. It was not until 1966 that Roberto Gallegos, in a project coordinated by the INAH, resumed work in Zone B of what is now the Olympic Village; this led to the discovery of 183 burial sites and a house belonging to the original city. In 1978 the area was completely restored, and it was later expanded in 1980; between 1984 and 1987 Manuel Gándara’s team discovered a circular-based construction in the Loreto and Peña Pobre park. In 1996, Mario Pérez Campa found a 12.8-foot-high column to the south of the Great Pyramid, complete with inscriptions that might be the earliest astronomical records of ancient Mexico yet to have been discovered.
A site museum, containing objects found during the excavations, is also open to visitors.
|Cuyuxquihui||A Totonaca city, eight centuries old, emerged at the fall of El Tajín. With the air of a fortified site, it was important in the region until it was conquered by Moctezuma Ilhuicamina around 1465. Its pyramids on the edge of a cliff and its great ball court are the epitome of sobriety and strength.|
|Dainzú||Contemporary with Monte Albán, it is remarkable for the buildings adapted to the topography of the location, they seem to rest against the hill. Also magnificent reliefs depicting ball players.|
|Dzibanché||Surprisingly extensive (more than 40 km2), the beauty of its enormous constructions and the natural surroundings of the site add interest to the four groups that make up this complex: Dzibanché or Main group, Central Complex or Lamay Group, Tutil and Kinichná.|
|Dzibilchaltún||The Temple of the Seven Dolls attracts hundreds of visitors at the spring and fall equinoxes, when the sun shines through the building and illuminates the doorway. There are numerous admirable stelae, beautifully carved, and an open cenote (underground pool) with crystal clear waters.||The Dzibilchaltun archaeological site is situated seven and a half miles to the north of the city of Merida, in the state of Yucatan. The area of the site approaches eight square miles and it includes the remains of various pre-Hispanic settlements of different periods. The Central Plaza as it is found today dates from a period of occupation in the Late Classic period, between 850 and 1100 AD. However, much older buildings that were buried by the infill of more recent buildings were discovered during the survey of the structures surrounding the Xlacah Cenote, and these are from the Middle Preclassic period, probably dating around 600 BC. Despite the fact that the center of the site which we now know as Dzibilchaltun was occupied from early times, there was a much larger and more influential city called Komchen a few miles to the northwest. Komchen dominated the northwest region of the Yucatan peninsula in the final stage of the Postclassic period and for much of the Classic, probably owing to its extraction and trading of salt, an important resource which was exchanged for jadeite from the Motagua River region on the present-day border between Guatemala and Honduras, as well as for ceramics from the central Petén and the west of Chiapas.|
Dzibilchaltun had taken over control of the northwest region of the peninsula from Komchen by the end of the Classic. A large population, possibly close to 25,000, lived in the vicinity of the ceremonial city center organized around three large plazas and five long avenues paved with limestone mortar, which is why they are known in Maya as sacbeob, or sacbe in the singular, literally meaning "white roads." It is likely that during the Late Classic (around 800 AD), the name of the site might have referred to "the five that spring from the mouth of the celestial serpent," which alludes to the divine tetrarchies which inhabit the various regions of the world according to pre-Hispanic thought, such as the four k’awiles, bacabes or pahuatunes which live in the four points of the sky. In this case it could refer to a group of five deities associated with the Milky Way, which is sometimes described as a heavenly snake that dwells in the night sky. The fact that the urban plan of the Late Classic settlement includes a system of paved roads whose orientation fits with the four points of the compass on a symmetrical pattern which emerges from two central plazas suggests that the name of the city was derived from its shape.
The investigation of Dzibilchaltun fell into two important periods. The first was led by Edward Wyllys Andrews IV, a US archaeologist, who, before the Second World War, directed the compilation of one of the first maps of Mesoamerica in conjunction with George Sturt of the National Geographic Society. Then at the end of the 1950s, Andrews returned with a team of researchers from the Middle American Research Institute of the University of Tulane, in addition to staff from the National Geographic Society working under the supervision of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). Over the period of a decade of work in the area, this team of researchers carried out underwater archeology in the Xlacah Cenote and restored the Templo de las Siete Muñecas ("Temple of the Seven Dolls") as well as mapping an area of over 12 square miles. The second period of exploration has been directed by Rubén Maldonado Cárdenas, a Mexican archeologist who has dedicated a substantial part of his professional career to Dzibilchaltun since the late 1990s. Practically all of the structures around the Central Plaza were excavated and consolidated by his team over a twenty-year period. Of particular note was the burial of Kalomte’ Uk’uw Ux Chan Chaak, an important Late Classic period monarch.
The Temple of the Sun or House of the Seven Dolls, named after the seven ceramic human figures found during the excavation of the site in the 1950s, is a square-based pyramid comprising two bodies, of medium height and with broad and well-worked steps on the four sides culminating in an elegant roofed temple with doors facing east and west. At dawn on the spring and autumn equinoxes of 21 March and 21 September respectively, a powerful beam of sunlight crosses both doors of the shrine at the top for an instant. It was believed that this was a sign sent by Kinich Ahau, the sun god, to indicate the time for sowing or harvesting. The Mayan astronomers and builders took great care to ensure that this marvel worked.
Of the city’s stone-surfaced roads connecting the center to the periphery, there is a long road connecting the city center to other complexes in the surrounding area, especially the shrine of the great stele, with its great stairway, the excavated residential complex of Group 4, and the pyramidal structures which line its route to the crystal clear waters of the Xlacah Cenote, which means “old town” in Maya. The cenote, which measures 130 feet wide by 330 feet long, with a depth of 130 feet, is one of the largest of the peninsula and archeological finds, principally ceramic vessels, have been discovered inside it. Before reaching the cenote the route takes visitors through a notable open chapel built by the Franciscans in the sixteenth century, soon after the Spanish conquest. The final essential stop on the itinerary is a visit to the rich and well laid-out Museum of the Mayan People.
|Dzibilnocac||The legacy of the past grandeur of this site is an expansive plaza and splendid buildings, some decorated with carved masks. Remains of paintings have also been found, showing hieroglyphs and gods of the Maya pantheon.||The ancient inhabitants built Dzibilnocac on an extensive plain, and so the city has an urban layout consisting of a set of interconnected patios and plazas. The most voluminous structures are found predominantly in the central Chenes region, meaning that the settlement’s territorial expanse has particular construction characteristics, while the urban growth radiates out from the center, simulating circles, with diminishing volumes and architectural quality until reaching the rural areas. The earliest signs of human inhabitation are dated to approximately between 500 and 50 BC. The fertile ground made the area suitable for an agricultural and sedentary society. The central part of the site was inhabited by the lords or governors, as well as by nobles, priests and other members of the high-ranking classes. Dzibilnocac was a regional capital, and in common with many other cities, which also controlled the goods and resources of their territories, it would have received tributes from the areas it had subjugated. The site’s decline has been dated to around the year 1000 AD.|
|Edzná||A site with magnificent architectural complexes, such as the “Great Acropolis” and impressive constructions, above all the “Building of the Five Floors." Edzná’s inhabitants developed a complex water management system to secure a year-round supply, and their city became a powerful regional capital between 400 and 1000 AD.|
The earliest signs of human occupation at this site have been dated to 400 BC. Shortly before the beginning of the Common Era, a small community developed and created a centralized government. Over time, the inhabitants built a complex and efficient system for the collection and storage of rainwater, as well as a drainage network. They also concentrated production and the workforce, erected large buildings and dominated the surrounding villages. Edzná became a powerful regional capital in the west of the Yucatán peninsula between 400 and 1000 AD. The ancient city of Edzná covered an average area of almost 10 square miles and estimates suggest that at its peak—when it formed an alliance with Calakmul and Piedras Negras—its total population numbered some 25,000. Over the next four centuries it lost its political and financial power until it was eventually abandoned in around 1450 AD.
The construction of the water management system ensured the availability of this vital liquid for various practical purposes, particularly agriculture and subsistence during the different seasons. This also made it possible to produce the mortars required in the construction of the monumental buildings, which visitors can still admire today in various parts of the ancient city. The inhabitants later covered up these structures—which they considered sacred—with new constructions. This led to bulky volumes, as in the case of the Great Acropolis, an enormous construction reflecting the site’s great economic, political and religious power, and over which other monumental temples were built.
The Building of the Five Floors (BFF) stands out from the other structures in the central part of the eastern side of the Great Acropolis. This construction owes its name to the five levels that are visible on its eastern side, each one with vaulted chambers. The BFF rises up 118 feet from the level of the eastern plaza, making it one of the highest points in the Edzná valley. The original temple was partially demolished to build the building currently visible with its roof comb. This west façade dates back to the ninth century AD and it was the last section added to the plinth. The north side of the BFF shows the characteristics of the Petén architectural style: it was covered with wide, convex slabs in the Postclassic period (800-1200 AD). The roughly hewn central steps were added in the Postclassic. The eastern side of the BFF bears the mark of a similar process, only that there the beginnings or footing of the pyramid’s base can be seen, meaning that later it was covered by the Great Acropolis. The bottom of this plinth could have measured 260 by 260 feet.
We know of 33 stelae at Edzná: four were carved between the years 41 and 435 AD; eleven are inscribed with glyphs that date them between 633 and 830 AD; the others are from the ninth and tenth centuries. Almost all of them show governors wearing luxurious garments that celebrate an enthronement, participation in the ballgame, the subjugation of a region, an alliance with another political center, and so on. Recent studies have included the reading of two iconic glyphs for Edzná (city and territory), and ten governors’ names, including one who was a woman.
The name by which this large collection of Maya remains is known today seems to have been derived from the final centuries of its pre-Hispanic occupation, when it might have been called Ytzná. This is a word from Chontal Mayan and means “house or place of the Itzá”; in other words, a settlement in which a family called Iztá once governed. In fact, this name continues to be used as a surname in many parts of the Yucatán peninsula. Over time “Ytzná” turned into “Etzná” and in the mid-twentieth century a further change made it Edzná.
However, the city did not always bear this name. The study of the hieroglyphs at the site has revealed two specific signs used to refer to the place. A toponym that refers to the center of the settlement represents the rattle of a snake. It could also refer to the Pleiades, a star cluster recorded by Maya astronomers. The word “tzab” was used to refer to the rattlesnake and also this cluster of stars. Meanwhile, the Edzná glyph shows a profile of a human face wearing an ear flare with crossed bands. It was used to mark the ancient city’s sphere of political and territorial rule. Both hieroglyphs were used between the seventh and ninth centuries of the Common Era.
The earliest references to Edzná are attributed to Teobert Maler, an Austrian explorer who came to Mexico as part of the militia attached to Maximilian of Habsburg in the 1860s, and then decided to remain in Mexico. Maler reached a point just 6 miles to the south of Edzná in 1887, but decided not to visit the ruins because he was informed that none of the “building façades were still standing."
Local farmers and hunters in the region had long been aware of these pre-Hispanic ruins, but it was not until 1906 when the inhabitants of Finca Hontún (four miles to the northeast of Edzná) reported its existence to the government of Porfirio Díaz. This news was lost in the chaos of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), and it was only in 1927 that the site was officially recognized thanks to Nazario Quintana Bello, Inspector of Pre-Hispanic Monuments for the country’s Ministry of Education. That same year, explorations of the site began, led by José Reygadas Vértiz (photographs), Federico Mariscal (plans and drawings), Enrique Juan Palacios and Sylvanus Morley (inscriptions and dates).
In 1943 Alberto Ruz Lhuillier and Raúl Pavón Abreu commenced work to discover the extent and distribution of the buildings. In 1958 César Sáenz, Héctor Gálvez and Raúl Pavón began their excavations and restoration of some sectors of the Great Acropolis. In the late 1960s George Andrews and a group of US architects (University of Oregon) drew up the first topographical map and undertook an architectural analysis of the site. At the start of the following decade, Ray Matheny, Donald Forsyth and other specialists (New World Archeological Foundation/Brigham Young University in Utah) conducted further explorations, preparing a second map as well as carrying out research into the ceramic materials and chronology of the site. Excavation and restoration work continued in the 1970s under the supervision of Román Piña Chán.
In 1981 and 1982 many communities in northwestern Guatemala ware gravely affected by the many clashes between the guerrilla forces and the army. Thousands of peasant farmers emigrated to Chiapas and eventually to Campeche. After 1986, the UN and the Mexican government implemented a job-creation program for those displaced by the conflict, and they worked on excavating, restoring, and maintaining Edzná’s archeological heritage. Luis Millet Cámara directed the project for the first two years, supported by a team of archeologists that included Florentino García, Heber Ojeda and Vicente Suárez, among others. Since 1988, Antonio Benavides C. has coordinated various research projects at Edzná, working together with many specialists such as Rosario Domínguez, Alan Maciel, Sara Novelo, Carlos Pallán and Ana María Parrilla. Beween 1996 and 2000 the program received European Union funding, and since 2000 the field seasons have been supported and funded by the INAH. After the past decade of archeological work, the public are now able to access some twenty buildings scattered over an area of 22 acres.
|Ek' Balam||Ramparts, murals, steles, plazas and sumptuous palaces await the visitor, but the greatest surprise is the richness of the architecture and decoration of its buildings, like the Acropolis, whose entrance looks like the mouth of a monster with enormous fangs.||Ek’ Balam was established in the Middle Preclassic between 300 BC and 300 AD, and it remained inhabited until the arrival of the Spanish, reaching its peak during the Late Classic from 770 to 896. It covered an extensive area of land and had classic Mayan features. It shared common characteristics with the most outstanding sites, for example it had three murals, five sacbeob (Mayan roads), carved stelae and a ballcourt. The kingdom of Talol became very powerful under king Ukit Kan Lek Tok’, and to a lesser extent under his successors to the throne. The governors and the elite of the city of Ek’ Balam flaunted colossal and magnificent architectural works, sculptures, paintings and luxury objects created on their behalf by the best master architects, sculptors, painter-scribes and all types of craftsmen. The kingdom of Talol was a fiefdom maintained by force of arms, which exploited the labor and resources of the settlements under its dominion, since its own population was not large enough to have built its great works, which included the royal palace known today as the Acropolis, with its singularly massive dimensions, complex architectural layout, and numerous areas recording the story of the king and his successors in paintings and reliefs, on a variety of surfaces. Apart from the artistic value of Ek’ Balam’s features, the historical value of the information found—and which is still being discovered—is vital, since it has filled a big gap in the archeological record for the northeastern part of the peninsula. The kingdom of Talol had a strong influence on neighboring sites, even on Chichen Itza, which in its early stages of development adopted the techniques and materials used at Ek’ Balam for mural paintings and stucco sculpture, as well as its early ceramics, all of which possess clear features first developed at Ek' Balam.|
|El Cerrito||It was an important ceremonial center with influences from several cultures, particularly the Toltec. Franciscan sources say that around 1632 the indigenous people continued to make offerings to the pre-Hispanic deities on these altars.|
This ceremonial site is in the meadows beside the river El Pueblito. It was built on a small rise to the south of the valley of Querétaro, and it consists of a broad platform on which buildings and plazas were constructed. The site’s most notable structure is a pyramid close to 100 feet in height.
The site was built following a quadripartite system: the ceremonial space is divided into four sections oriented to the cardinal points. In addition to the main structure, it had a platform and a group of buildings and plazas decorated with reliefs, crowns and sculptures.
Despite the abandonment of the site in the eleventh century, it was not forgotten by local people who would take offerings there. It was inhabited again in the sixteenth century when the town of San Francisco Galileo was founded, with a population composed of the Otomi and Tarascan ethnic groups. A small pentagonal fort with four turrets was built on top of the great pyramid in the mid-nineteenth century, with an ammunition store in the center. The building was later adapted as the residence of the Fernández de Jáuregui family.
The first exploration work began in 1932 wehn the local inspector of monuments, Miguel Patiño reported a series of unauthorized excavations made by the landowners. Subsequently, formal archeological work began in 1936 under the direction of Eduardo Noguera. In 1944 Carlos Margáin visited the site to gather information on the monuments of the north and west. Observing the architectural layout, he determined that it was of Toltec influence. Later, in 1960, Román Piña Chan proposed that the site dated from the Epiclassic period, and specificallly to the Toltec phase. The El Cerrito archeological project began in 1984. The following year an initial survey took place with Carlos Castañeda and students from the Universidad Veracruzana.
|El Chanal||El Chanal is one of the most important sites of the Postclassic period in Western Mesoamerica, due to its unique architectural characteristics, its location, its time period and the size of the territory it covers.||This space was inherited by the ancestors of the Mexican people and it covers land in the towns of Villa de Álvarez and Colima, where the area open to the public is found. The people who lived in this area knew how to take advantage of the valley’s bounty in order to survive and they were able to appropriate everything that it offered them. They built their city, which is recognized for its architecture, on both banks of the Colima river. It spans an area of a little over 445 acres. |
Although a large part of the remains were found buried—waiting to be studied and released from their ancestral enclosure—today it is possible to enjoy closely connected ceremonial buildings, among which temples, palaces, altars and a ballgame court are found. Around this religious complex, there are also various blocks of residential buildings, each with an entry stairway. The formation of a small plaza can be distinguished in the center of each of them.
The houses were made using small tree trunks arranged vertically and continually to define the walls. These were then covered with a mud plaster, which gave a very fine finish to the inside and outside of the dwellings. For the roof, they used a tough, wiry grass from the region.
On first encountering the valley, the Spanish conquistadors saw that it was mostly inhabited by dispersed, Nahua-speaking groups, which is why this ethnic affiliation was attributed to the site. It should be mentioned that, although this claim has been acceptable so far, DNA tests have not been carried out to confirm or dismiss it.
The various discoveries and the analysis of the recovered materials have been able to account for various activities of the groups who lived in this area. With reference to metallurgy, the search shows the manufacture of decorative objects, such as breastplates and bells, as well as tools, particularly needles (which there are a lot of). Ceramic fragments were also recuperated with metal stamps or imprints inside, which indicates that copper, silver and gold were melted.
It is also important to mention the production of pottery which was used for many purposes, from domestic to religious. Many of the pots’ designs, both in shape and in decoration, are completely local. However, there are ceramic remains which are intimately linked with the Aztatlán tradition (based on codex decorative designs) and have designs with a strong influence from the Chupícuaro tradition’s ceramics. With regard to long distance trade, the turquoise objects and the Plumbate style vessels stand out, which were not made locally.
Although there is not a lot of archeological information referring to agriculture, the food requirements of a large city had to be guaranteed through the production of various crops, especially maize (pumpkin, corn and chilies). According to a few historical sources, it is thought that they also farmed cacao and cotton.
The settlers in El Chanal used stone to make decorative elements and everyday utensils. As for polished stone, there are some functional objects, such as axes, hammers, polishers, grinders and milling stones (metates and metate hands), as well as decorative and sumptuary objects, such as carved stones and some bulk sculptures. The polished stone corresponds practically to the work of obsidian, a raw material originating from Michoacán, which was used to make blades and arrowheads.
In the second decade of the twentieth century, a group of enthusiasts interested in the area, led by professor Miguel Galindo, began to empirically record the ancient material remains which they discovered in various plots of the Colima valley. Through this work, in 1939, the recently created INAH sent the archeologist Roque Ceballos to carry out an assessment of the site and to promote the creation of a museum. Over time, the archeologists Vladimiro Rosado Ojeda, Isabel Kelly, Nicolás García, María de los Ángeles Olay Barrientos followed suit and, from 2008, Andrés Saúl Alcántara Salinas led the El Chanal Archeological Project.
|El Conde||Located in Naucalpan de Juárez, in the northern suburbs of Mexico City, this site offers a rarity: a palace belonging to the pre-Hispanic nobility of the 15th century AD, which is one of few samples of civic architecture of the period.|
|El Cóporo||One of the most important sites in the state of Guanajuato, it developed around a hill of the same name. On the lower level, the architectural complexes were public buildings and houses, those on the hillsides were administrative and residential areas, and at the top there is a ceremonial zone.||El Cóporo's active period dates from between the years 1 and 1000 AD, reaching its peak between 400 to 600 and declining between 900 to 1000. It is located within the area of the Tunal Grande, delimited to the west by San Luis Potosí, the Jalisco Mountains, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, and to the northeast by Guanajuato. In the sixteenth century, the Spanish named it El Cóporo (“the great road”) due to its abundance of prickly pear cacti.|
The settlement’s location was decisive in its development. As well as being made up of grasslands and mountains, it is found between the Cóporo and Gotas rivers and protected by two canyons.
This archeological area, which is oriented towards the west, is distinguished by its earthen architecture such as its adobe walls, flat mud roofs and wattle and daub structures. The topography was exploited in building the structures, using rocky outcrops for the structures and staircases. The ground was leveled using a system of terraces in order to achieve the stability necessary for building.
The Llano Complex is located at the foot of the hill in the lower section, an area which was surrounded by rooms. Here, two adobe fireplaces, milling instruments and pots were found. At the peak, the ceremonial Cóporo Complex is located; the natural surroundings were exploited to make this a sacred space. Finally, in the vicinity of the hill is the Gotas Complex, where archeologists found a shrine.
Most notably in the staircases, petroglyphs are visible with geometric designs and animal symbols. Circular spirals (linked to water) and quadrangular spirals (linked to fire) both appear frequently. The petroglyph in the Cóporo Complex is also very noteworthy. It consists of a triangular spiral pointing to the north, which suggests that the settlers carefully observed the movements of the sky.
|El Grillo||Located in the municipality of Zapopan, within the metropolitan area of Guadalajara, the main feature of its architecture is the typical mud constructions of the Valley of Atemajac. A number of tombs were found here.|
|El Meco||Situated on the coast, it probably played an important role in the navigation routes of the Maya. From the top of the highest building of the zone, known as "El Castillo," there is fine view of Cancun and the surrounding area.||Archeologists have found that El Meco was possibly inhabited from the third century AD, initially as a small fishing settlement which was later abandoned, and then reoccupied in the eleventh century. The coast of Quintana Roo was heavily populated in this period, perhaps by people arriving from the larger cities in the interior of the peninsula.|
The inhabitants in the Postclassic period made the most of the strategic location of this place and turned it into a thriving city. This led to significant population growth and strengthened El Meco’s economic and possibly its religious standing, which was associated with the rituals held on Isla Mujeres, just across a stretch of the Caribbean from the site.
Allan Ortega’s bio-anthropological research on the skeleton collections amassed over a number of years from the excavations by Luis Leira, Elia Trejo and Enrique Terrones showed that the people of El Meco were from a single ethnic group, and were essentially local. The population was well-fed and compared to other contemporary groups on the east coast of Quintana Roo, the people were healthy, probably as a result of the great variety of marine resources available to them.
It is presently possible to visit the principal sector of the site, which includes the civic and ceremonial plaza, dominated by El Castillo (“The Castle”). On either side there are two small later buildings, which may have functioned as altars or minor temples.
Like sites of a similar style, this group includes other buildings with columns supporting flat roofs and which, given their dimensions, were probably set up as administrative areas in which officials could serve the various needs of the population. In some cases small temples for everyday worship stand alongside these buildings.
One of these temples, which encloses the north side of the plaza, is especially notable for the presence of a beautiful copo (fig) tree, which has grown from inside the building giving it a very distinctive appearance. The main plaza of El Meco has a small shrine in the center where offerings were left during ceremonies and dances.
The archeological site was bisected by the highway built in the 1970s to link the tourist center of Cancun with the towns to its north. This left the civic and public area described above in one sector while the jetty and the residential buildings near the beach were left in another sector, yet to be excavated, which explains why it has yet to be opened to the public.
|El Rey||Located in the hotel zone of Cancun, it was one of the principal ports on the Caribbean coastal trade route. It has two plazas and a number of structures, some of which still bear the remains of mural paintings depicting gods.||The earliest finds at this archeological site date to around the year 300, when a small group of fishermen built wooden houses with palm roofs over small stone platforms. The excavations undertaken indicate that centuries later the inhabitants' main activities would still have been fishing but also salt production, for their own consumption and for the payment of tribute to larger cities, or to take these products to the large cities in the interior of the peninsula.|
El Rey did not become a significant site until late: between 1300 and 1550, when there was a large increase in population on the coast of what is today Quintana Roo. The structures which can be visited correspond to a settlement whose principal activities were related to the sea, making the most of the special location between the Caribbean and the Nichupte lagoon. When the inhabitants of El Rey witnessed the destruction caused after the arrival of the Spanish, they fled inland and the island remained uninhabited until the early twentieth century.
Thanks to the work of the archeologists in the 1970s and 1980s, today there is public access to the structures that run the length of the main avenue, and its two small plazas. A comprehensive conservation project was carried out at the site in 2010, to improve the presentation of the buildings and to ensure their conservation.
One of the most notable features of El Rey is the careful design of an avenue whose edges were lined with residential buildings on platforms. Each of these "houses" has individual details, but they all follow the typical pattern of Late Postclassic dwellings, in other words they have a porticoed entrance with a bench, a place for daytime activities, while the room to the rear could have been for sleeping.
According to Dr. Allan Ortega Muñoz, a specialist in population studies, there were burials both inside and outside the buildings, analysis of which has enabled us to learn that El Rey was a community with a high degree of biological variation, and that it was linked with the sites on the island of Cozumel and Chichen Itza.
The avenue runs north and south of the complex of principal structures, while the center of the road features small square altars, undoubtedly for family ceremonies. The residences in the southern sector include masonry buildings, while those of the north, which are partly open to visit, are solely platforms which supported wood and palm houses. It is interesting to note that the platforms of the northern avenue are aligned with the pyramid of the nearby site of San Miguelito, which suggests that both complexes were part of a single extensive settlement nearly two miles in length, which occupied the southern half of the island of Cancun.