185 Zonas
Clave / IDNombreResumen ENDescripción ENSabías qué EN
El SabinitoLocated in the foothills of the sierra of Tamaulipas, it comprises more than 600 structures adapted to the irregular local terrain. Most remarkable are two enormous circular constructions and a pyramid with a ceremonial altar.
El TajínA majestic site with wide open spaces, numerous ballcourts and bas-reliefs, and particularly impressive for the Pyramid of the Niches, with its 365 niches, El Tajín has long been a source of fascination to specialists in Mesoamerican calendar systems and world view.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, El Tajín was under the tutelage of the god Tajín, meaning “thunder” or “powerful smoke” in the Totonac language. This figure’s links to severe meteorological phenomena led him to being identified with the “Hurricane God” and the location became known as the city of the Hurricane God.

This sacred center on the Gulf Coast reached its peak during the Postclassic (800-1100 AD), when more than five iconic buildings were erected, each one in harmony with its immediate backdrop, the Cerro del Oriente hill. One of the most important of these structures is the Pirámide de los Nichos ("Pyramid of the Niches"), where a solar event takes place from March 17 to 25 as part of the “quarter-year” cycle (which occurs in March, June, September and December). At that moment the sun’s rays can be observed descending the building, illuminating everything, while the rest of the site remains shrouded in darkness.

In around the year 1150 AD, during a time of climate change known as the Medieval Warm Period, a flood caused the city to be abandoned.

El Tajín’s architecture, in common with almost all of its sculptural forms, represents duality. One example is the “talud-tablero” (slope-panel) construction style, with a central niche and a cornice. The result is an image that will look the same whether seen front on or upside down, with the niche or the shell motif in the center. This is also a symbol of (balanced) movement. It would seem that the ancient inhabitants of El Tajín wished to leave a message within these mirror images: movement representing harmony and balance, mainly between man and nature.

Twenty-one ballgame courts have so far been found at El Tajín. We can distinguish two types of court, based on the scenes depicted on their walls: the competitive game, and the ritualistic version played as part of a divine invocation for balance and continued sustenance for humankind. The complete ritual is portrayed on the South Ballcourt, depicting the petition to the gods and also the offering made to them; this ceremony consisted of giving blood—man’s most treasured possession—to the four winds. This act of respect for nature took place on very special dates or at changes of era. 

Two principal gods watched over the ancient city, and these also represent duality: Quetzalcoatl, the sun god; and Tlaloc, the god of rain. This again shows the balance between the universe and life on earth, including all living beings (plants, animals, hills and springs) in the surroundings; everything had a soul, and the people would ask permission to use things, based on their belief in order and respectfulness: animals should not be hunted unless for consumption, trees only cut down to be used.

  • El Tajín was discovered in 1785 when Don Diego Ruiz, an officer patrolling the area, was searching for clandestine tobacco plantations in the Papantla region.
  • There were various entrances to the city from the cardinal directions, and for years these had remained hidden under the dense vegetation and earth. They were only recently discovered thanks to the use of LIDAR, a new technology that employs a scanning camera and remote sensors. A geographic information system (GIS) is used to process all the data gathered.
El TigreCapital of the province of Acalán, also known as Itzamkanac, El Tigre is situated on the banks of the river Candelaria and was renowned for its trading activity. Notable is the ceremonial center with the large stucco masks. It is believed that Hernán Cortés executed Cuauhtémoc here.The archeological site was named after the neighboring ejido, but in ancient times it was called Itzamkanac, meaning the place of the lizard or serpent, possibly in reference to the god Itzamna. El Tigre was the Acalan capital. Its status was reflected in the monumental size of its buildings and the extent of the urban footprint. It is speculated that this was the site of the execution of Cuauhtemoc by Hernan Cortes.

The region’s inhabitants were Chontal Maya, or Putun as Eric Thompson called them. They were traders, warriors and priests who imposed the worship of Kukulcan. Their territory stretched from Champotón to the Grijalva-Usumacinta basin, in other words from the Gulf coast inland, and they settled the northeast Mayan lowland river banks and lake margins in the present day states of Campeche, Tabasco and Chiapas.

El Tigre covers a series of low ridges next to the river Candelaria and has a long history of settlement stretching from the Middle Preclassic (600–300 BC) to around 1557, after the conquest. Until a few years ago, it was thought that Chontal settlement of this area took place in the Late Postclassic, but thanks to the ongoing excavations, we know that it reached its apogee during the Terminal Classic, since this was when the majority of the building took place. There is also evidence for significant settlement during the Middle and particularly in the Late Preclassic when coastal activity was very significant. The area was still populated when the Spanish arrived.

The archeological site is made up of six architectural groups, and the core area includes Peten-style buildings in the underlying structures. There are also elements of Rio Bec architecture from the later period. El Tigre’s main ceremonial center was distributed between two large plazas. The first and most important is the physical center of Structures 1, 2 and 3, which is classed as an E-group, although it is sometimes difficult to identify structures like these because of the substantial changes made in the Late Classic, undoubtedly because of social and political change in the region.

The internal arrangement of El Tigre has remained intact from at least the Middle to Late Preclassic. This is the site of Structures 2 and 3 which have Peten-style features, widespread in the Mayan southern lowlands. It is also possibly the oldest architectural pattern identified in them to date. The buildings were first interpreted as potential observatories and astronomical markers of the equinoxes and solstices, a purpose that was undoubtedly lost in the Classic period. The current thinking is that they were very closely tied to the identity of the elites and to divination using lines, circles and points marked out in the ground. The astronomical interpretation cannot be dismissed, however, and there would in any case have been a close relationship with the elites, and possibly with the agricultural calendar.

The stelae appear to be an important additional component since they are often located on the axes of these structures. At El Tigre a stela was found in alignment with the E-group axis. Although very fragmented and out of place, we do know where it used to be and we may assume it had been situated on this axis.

Stucco facade masks may also be considered elements of significance, since they are frequently found in the few sites that have been excavated. At El Tigre, for example, anthropomorphic facade masks were found at the sides of the stairways of Structure 2 facing towards the east, which may be identified with the ancestors, or with the establishment of lineages during this period. Two anthropomorphic facade masks facing the east were also found in Structure 4, but since the excavation was limited, it was not possible to determine whether there was a stairway between the two. There are also three ballcourts.

The first excavations at El Tigre were carried out in 1943 by Edward Wyllys Andrews IV who worked in various parts of the Mayan region. He highlighted the absence of information on southern Campeche, particularly on the municipalities of El Carmen and Candelaria. Even at the time Andrews emphasized the importance of El Tigre, although he had not visited all the sites to the south of the river Candelaria. The same year Alberto Ruz Lhuillier visited the coast of Campeche, but without going inland. It was not until 1959 that Román Piña Chán and Pavón Abreu published a paper on the ruins of El Tigre, proposing the hypothesis that the site is Itzamkanac, the capital of the province of Acalan, the place where Cortes killed Cuauhtémoc on the ill-fated journey to Las Hibueras.

INAH’s 1960 publication of volume two of the Atlas of Mexican Archeology included El Tigre as one of the sites mentioned in Campeche. The work of Alfred H. Siemens and Dennis E. Puleston on the canals of the river Candelaria, including the first preliminary map of the El Tigre, was published in 1972. An archeological survey of the river Candelaria basin was carried out in 1983 and the region was divided into seven sections, covering 33 archeological sites. El Tigre was one of those described.

The El Tigre Archeological Project commenced in 1984 under the direction of Dr. Román Piña Chán. Some residential areas were excavated as well as two of the site’s principal structures, which were numbered 1 and 2. Unfortunately the report and the project itself were never concluded. A year later Sofía Pincemín undertook a survey of the Candelaria basin, and more recently she has carried out intensive work in three different parts of the same basin. Nevertheless, despite these various archeological projects the region’s settlement pattern remains largely unknown. Nor do we understand the chronology of the sites, their architecture or their ceramic typology.

In 1996 the INAH Archeological Council approved the El Tigre, Itzamkanac, Provincial Capital of Acalan Archeological Project. The work includes recording the main sites in the province of Acalan, topographical surveys of the structures excavated in 1984, determining the boundaries of the El Tigre site and detailed surveying of the two residential structures, as well as an overall survey of the former province of Acalan, where 148 sites have been found.
  • In the pre-Hispanic period this anciente Mayan city was a major trading port.
  • The Chontales were the leading Mayan traders. Thompson called them the Phoenecians of America.
  • The site contains a large number of facade masks, not all of them excavated. To date eleven have been discovered, some anthropomorphic and others zoomorphic, all from the Late Preclassic.
El VallecitoIn rocky shelters of the Sierra de Juárez, there are numerous examples of cave paintings: geometric figures, zoomorphic and anthropomorphic designs appear on the walls. During the winter solstice, a ray of light enters the cave and lights up the eyes of an image known as El Diablito (Little Devil).The El Vallecito (“The Little Valley”) archeological site has caught the attention and awoken the interest of generations of ordinary people and researchers, who have visited it since at least the early twentieth century. It is the most northerly site that is open to the public in Mexico. Comprising 23 sites in total, it is famous for the cave paintings in the five rocky shelters that can be visited today, known as El Tiburón (“The Shark”), El Diablito (“The Little Devil”), El Hombre Enraizado (“The Rooted Man”), La Cueva del Indio (“The Indian’s Cave”) and Solecitos (“Little Suns”).

It was during the 1960s and 1970s that archeologist Ken Hedges, from the San Diego Museum of Man, California, introduced the scientific community and the world to the archaeo-astronomical phenomenon which occurs at the El Diablito site every December 21, during the winter solstice. When the sun emerges over the horizon, light pours into the cave and, minute by minute, clearly illuminates the pictorial motifs which are found there, finally converging in the center of El Diablito. Subsequently, the beams recede in almost the same way they came in, until the direct sunlight disappears almost an hour and a half after it began.

Given this background, other sites with cave paintings in the area began to be monitored from 2013, when the El Vallecito Archeological Project began, in order to determine if the El Diablito phenomenon only occurred there. However, for this task, it was important to first specify what an archaeo-astronomical site is. According to the archeologist Antonio Porcayo, it was defined as “a rocky cave or shelter with displays of cave paintings, where the equinoctial and solstice events are reflected at a certain time of day directly by sunlight, and indirectly by the play of the resulting shadows. This allows us to assume that this association (paintings and sunlight) was a result of a deliberate decision by their creators with unquestionable knowledge of the solar cycle, for different ritual, religious or other purposes. An archeological site with cave paintings which does not meet these conditions is not an archaeo-astronomical site.”

Therefore, since 2014, the archeologist José Aguilar from San Diego City College, a contributor on archaeo-astronomical observations to the El Vallecito Archeological Project, has come to monitor the solar event that marks the change of each season at the site named El Hombre en el Cuadro (“The Man in the Painting”). Although it is not yet open to the public, it has already been proven that, like El Diablito, it is an archaeo-astronomical site as the winter solstice and autumn equinox events are reflected directly, and the spring equinox indirectly.

Research continues in El Vallecito and it is very probable that, besides El Diablito and El Hombre en el Cuadro, some of the other 23 sites which display cave art will also be shown to have an astronomical connection.
  • El Vallecito is a natural pass between the desert, the mountainous area of Baja California and the south of California.
  • The granite formations that provided temporary shelters for the ancient inhabitants also served as a canvas to express their world view.
  • The cave paintings date back to 10,000 years ago.
  • All of the sites with cave paintings are associated with water runoff.
  • Besides the rocky shelters with paintings, there are more than 30 of these formations which present traces of domestic life, ceramic and stone work, agave ovens, and so on.
El Zapotal
GuiengolaIt is believed to have been a fortress for defense against hostile groups, and at the time of the Conquest it was a Mixtec administrative center.
HochobThe elaborate Maya decoration causes a sense of wonder with features such as the facade of the Main Palace, where the entrance is an enormous mask of open jaws and fangs at either side, in the shape of a monstrous mouth.

This was one of the most important Mayan settlements in the Chenes region. In around 300 AD its earliest inhabitants established a presence on a hill upon which some important public and religious structures had previously stood. The hillsides were terraced and platforms created in order to provide a base for houses, built of non-durable materials. They also constructed chultuns or water cisterns to collect, store and distribute rainwater.

Hochob was probably subordinate to Dzibilnocac or Santa Rosa Xtampac, sites whose importance had grown by the Classic period; the buildings here date from between 600 and 900 AD, and reached their maximum splendor between 850 and 1000 AD.

One of the most outstanding features of the buildings are the enormous stucco facade masks of the god Itzamná, with its maw agape and the lower jaw consisting of a platform with fangs by way of an entrance. This can be seen in the main rooms of Buildings 1 and 2. In addition to these decorations are overlaying masks of Chaac, a god connected to rain. Other features include the towers crowned by  two-chambered temples.

The site’s period of prosperity was interrupted by the collapse of Mayan society, a fate that befell various cities in the Yucatan peninsula, and weakened Hochob’s ruling class. As a result, the population settled elsewhere; the city was not completely abandoned though, and continued to be inhabited until after the Spanish Conquest.

  • Hochob was rediscovered on an area of raised land by the Austrian explorer Teobert Maler in 1887, and was later rediscovered, in 1936.
  • It was a medium-sized city that was dependent on another, more powerful settlement.
  • The local population at the time used the rooms of the pre-Hispanic buildings to store their harvested crops.
  • It is one of the few Maya sites in the Chenes region featuring buildings with facade masks and towers.
HormigueroSimilar to Hochob, it has a building whose facade has a great mask with a monstrous open mouth with enormous fangs, which has been interpreted as an entrance to the underworld. Also worthy of note is the zoomorphic facade and the masks of the god Chaac which decorate another of the structures.

Ensconced in the heart of the southern jungles of the state of Campeche, El Hormiguero consists of around a hundred pre-Hispanic structures. It was reported in 1933 by the Americans Karl Ruppert and John Dennison, who named it El Hormiguero (“the anthill”) due to the large number of anthills found there. It was a Maya city of medium importance and subordinate to Becán, the principal city in the entire Río Bec region. The settlement was first inhabited at the beginning of the Common Era, during the Late Preclassic. In the Early Classic (300 AD) there already existed a small, self-sufficient community, and a century later this transformed from being a village to a more hierarchical society that built a number of monumental structures.

However, it was only in the Late Classic, in around 750 AD, when construction work intensified: the buildings became larger, had more refined finishes and bore more symbolic features, indicating a stratified society. Impressive structures with towers were erected during this period of the city’s development. For example, Structures 2 and 6 have an integrated zoomorphic entrance, while Structure 66 has a series of mask panels. Also, a particularly fine example of a tripartite facade has been preserved on Structure 2, as well as a large zoomorphic entrance with lateral towers.

The site was abandoned in around 950 AD and its buildings looted. By contrast, the population of Becán grew considerably, perhaps because it received the people who had left El Hormiguero and other Maya settlements in the region.

Since the 1970s, a number of archeological studies have begun to be carried out at El Hormiguero. Specifically, Agustín Peña of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) was in charge of early conservation works at the site. Between 1984 and 1985 the INAH initiated—under the supervision of Román Piña Chán and with Ricardo Bueno in charge of the team in the field—projects to excavate and consolidate Structures 2 and 5, which are now some of the few remains of the architectural features open to the public, with their zoomorphic entrances and a series of administrative or residential chambers.

Between 1991 and 1994, with Ricardo Bueno as director of a team of graduates from the National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH), work was resumed at El Hormiguero. Another INAH project was led by Ángeles Cantero from 1997 to 1998, focusing on previously unexplored parts of Building 2, and exploration of Structure 5 began. In 2001, archeologist Luz Campaña was in charge of conducting maintenance on the ceiling of the temple on top of this building. In late 2011, and during early 2016, Vicente Suárez of INAH’s regional office in Campeche carried out both small and large-scale interventions on Structures 2 and 5, which were showing signs of damage due to the ravages of time and a lack of upkeep. At the same time, the west facade of Building 6 was explored, consolidated and restored. In recent dates, Structure 7 was completely restored. The damage seen in Structures 2, 5, 6 and 7 of this archeological area were caused by exposure to the elements, encroaching vegetation, cracks and filtrations in the wall faces, causing ashlar stones to become detached, disintegration of mortar and sections of some walls to crumble.

  • Many buildings of different kinds and sizes are found at the center of the pre-Hispanic settlement; the larger and more profusely decorated structures were built between the sixth and seventh centuries.
  • Masks feature in the decoration of the site’s most important buildings, and these reflect the local elite’s ideological and dynastic importance.
HuamangoBuilt by its original inhabitants, the Otomíes, who erected pyramid platforms and structures for housing. It is believed that this site was a political center which exerted control over the region.
HuamelulpanOne of the main urban centers of the Mixteca culture, is outstanding for its monumental architecture and sculpture, the carvings with calendar signs and a ball court related to a ritual which usually culminated in human sacrifice.
HuamuxtitlánInhabited by groups of Tlapanecas who maintained trade relations with the Mixtecos, it was subjugated by Nezahualcóyotl and became a bastion of the Triple Alliance, as can be seen from its architecture and associated offerings, which illustrate the warlike ideology of the peoples of central Mexico.
Huandacareo (La Nopalera)Originally a typical Cuitzeo Lake settlement, the same site was developed into a seat of public administration for the Tarascan state, where justice was imparted, rituals were celebrated and rulers were buried, and therefore it did not have a large population.

Huandacareo, or “La Nopalera,” is located on a hill to the northeast of Cuitzeo Lake. An important aspect of its construction were the earthworks needed to form its retaining walls, and a large amount of infill  material also had to be moved. This is an excellent example of maximizing available land, since although the walls we can see—especially in the southeastern sector—might not seem to serve any purpose today, they actually prevented the collapse of the heavy surface structures they were supporting. Furthermore, this would also have required a large workforce to construct these spaces.

Archeological work has revealed that there were at least two very distinct stages of occupation of the area. During the first period, La Nopalera was a typical Cuitzeo lakeside settlement; in other words, it had a small population without any connection to a state or city with power over the area. However, the site preserves elements indicating architectural influence from the Bajío region, such as the sunken patio and various decorated works of pottery. Burial sites also were found in the southwestern sector, with pottery showing patterns and motifs inspired by Teotihuacan, the mighty metropolis of central Mexico, and some of the buried people were found to be wearing similar clothes to those worn by inhabitants of the aforesaid city. This indicates that the region was a melting pot for a number of different cultural traditions which maintained their own identities.

Early in the second millennium AD, La Nopalera began to be used as a seat of government for the Tarascan state; the spaces were modified in a number of ways, different methods were used for the burials, and new technologies began to appear, as shown by the use of copper. Archeological records reveal that the site had been abandoned for some time before being altered by its new occupants.

  • Archeological work has revealed the remains of almost 100 people.
  • Among the cists (burial chambers made using four slabs for the sides, and a fifth for a lid) in the Patio de las Tumbas ("Burial Courtyard"), a channel made with blocks of high-quality cantera stone was found.
  • Tumba 3 is the cist tomb found closest to the surface. It contained pottery belonging to a more ancient cultural tradition, although a Tarascan vessel was also found, seemingly having been placed there at some later date, when the Tarascan groups reoccupied the site.
  • The "Relación de Michoacán" is a written account that mentions that, upon the death of the lords, it was customary to sacrifice individuals in order to use them as a "bed," on top of which the ruler’s body would be placed.
  • Changes in the burial methods (funerary rites) are an important means of identifying changes within societies.
HuapalcalcoThe earliest archeological site in Hidalgo, with remains of cave paintings and a dramatic backdrop formed by sheer rock faces.

The site of Huapalcalco, the most important archeological zone in the valley of Tulancingo, had five stages of inhabitation. The earliest dates back to prehistoric times, and specifically to the early Neolithic period. Important finds include the Meserve-type projectile points and a hand-axe dated to around 7000 BC, as well as cave paintings on the outcrops of the Mesa and Tecolote hills.

The second phase of occupation can be seen in a group of houses dated to the Late Preclassic, while the third consists of a settlement represented by Structure VI, with similar architecture to that found in Teotihuacan. The monuments and ceramic artefacts from the Epiclassic period (650 to 900 AD) could represent the forerunners of the Toltec culture. Here we can glimpse the first historical indications of Ce Acatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, the celebrated priest of the “Plumed Serpent” god, who was to become the most powerful ruler of Tula, the Toltec capital.

The site’s importance is clearly evident given the extraction of obsidian from the El Pizarrín mountain range and also because it was a regional center that functioned as a waypoint between the Valley of Mexico and the highland Huasteca region.

The fourth phase of inhabitation corresponds to the Late Postclassic, a time characterized by the use ceramic materials of the third and fourth Aztec periods in the Valley of Mexico. Some of the most interesting objects found at the site include yokes of Totonac origin and a sculpture of the Old God of Fire.

  • Brigitte Boehm de Lamieras, a researcher who has studied the origin of the State in Mesoamerica, has proposed that the origins of the Toltec state can be traced back to Huapalcalco.
  • The culture of those who built Huapalcalco has not been definitively confirmed, but the period has been identified as coming after Teotihuacan and before the Toltec civilization.
HuápocaThe rocky shelters of the Chihuahua sierra house dozens of human settlements separated by great distances. The houses are three and four storeys high, inside the caves and built of moulded clay. Their “T” shaped doors are a characteristic of Paquimé.
HuexotlaSituated near Texcoco, this pre-Hispanic city was one of the most important settlements of Acolhuacan. It covered an enormous area, extending beyond the boundary marked by a great wall 765 yards long by 23 feet high.Huexotla is the name given in various pre-Hispanic and colonial documents to the settlement lying to the east of Lake Texcoco in the foothills of Sierra del Quetzaltepec (7,447 to 8,497 feet above sea level) which occupied up to 924 acres at its height. The historical documents tell of the arrival of various groups in the eastern region of Lake Texcoco, the settlement of towns such as Coatlinchan and, later on, Huexotla and Texcoco, as well as political alliances through marriages or confrontations.

One of Huexotla’s most important historical episodes came in 1418, when Ixtlixóchitl I, whose son and heir was Nezahualcoyotl, was sworn in as Lord of Texcoco. This took place at an improvised ceremony presided over by Tlacatzin, Lord of Huexotla, with the presence of Opanteuhtli, Lord of Coatlinchan. The normal protocol for the handover of power could not be followed due to the plans of Tezozomoc, Lord of Azcapotzalco, to seize control of the lake’s eastern region; he even sent his armies to kill Ixtlilxochitl. It was then that Tezozomoc assumed control of Coahuatlinchan, granting the territory of Huexotla to Tlacateotl, ruler of Tlatelolco, and the city of Texcoco to Chimalpopoca, Lord of Tenochtitlan.

Upon Tezozómoc’s death in 1426, Nezahualcoyotl took advantage of the ensuing conflicts over succession to the rule of Azcapotzalco to retake his place of origin. In alliance with cities opposed to Tepanec rule, he defeated these groups and, together with his allies, reorganized political life. To do so, he renewed the powerful alliance of three-city rule, the so-called excan tlahtoloyan (“ruled by three” or “the place of three-part rule”), commonly known as the Triple Alliance, which in 1427 consisted of the cities of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan. Netzahualcoyotl regained control of Acolhuacan, recognizing the Lord of Huexotla as one of the six people of high rank who participated in the bodies of justice and government.

After the Conquest had been concluded, Huexotla continued to be a domain and part of the encomienda temporarily assigned to Cortés, as were Chiahutla, Tezayuca and Coatlinchan. The Franciscan monastery was founded in Huexotla in 1524. Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza granted a licence to build the Franciscan monastery of San Luis D’Anjou (Saint Louis D’Anjou, Bishop of Tolouse) in 1543. Fray Jerónimo de Mendieta wrote part of his Historia eclesiástica indiana (Ecclesiastical History of the Indians) in this place, which was completed in 1585.

As regards the archeological monuments, the first news of their exploration came from Leopoldo Batres, who published Explorations in Huexotla, Texcoco and El Gavilán after carrying out the corresponding architectural surveys. Visits were made and conservation, exploration, registration and protection work was done towards the second half of the twentieth century to define the first protected area of the archeological zone. Furthermore, the architectural complexes bearing the name of the plots on which they were found were investigated and protected. Those ruins still preserved lie in the center of San Luis Huexotla, between the Chapingo and San Bernardino rivers, as well as to the south of the latter river.
  • The two stairways in the monastery’s atrium suggest the existence of a large platform upon which the building itself was constructed.


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