184 Zonas
Clave / IDNombreResumen ENDescripción ENSabías qué EN
Iglesia ViejaIts strategic position on the Pacific coast was of great importance for communicating the Altiplano (high plateau) with the south of Veracruz and the area of the Isthmus. Its monolithic architecture of blocks of stone—some weighing almost two tons—is surprising, as well as its altars, stelae and beautifully carved sculptures.Covering three plateaus over 2300 feet in height in the Sierra Madre of Chiapas, the archeological zone of Iglesia Vieja is located 2.5 miles to the north of the city of Tonalá. Its story can be traced from the Late Preclassic (600 to 100 BC) to the Late Classic (600 to 900 AD), reaching a peak of building activity in the Early Classic (250 to 600 AD). The people of Iglesia Vieja made the most of the area's geology, which is of volcanic origin and abundant in granite, an igneous rock, for construction. They made use of the shape of the land in a similar manner, since the plateaus, divided by a series of streams, were the site of more than 80 structures divided into five architectural groups consisting of large and medium-sized platforms, plinths and temples, as well as plazas and points of access.

Iglesia Vieja covered an area of 148 acres. However the core area with monuments covers 77 acres. This impressive site was visited by various travelers and scholars in the early twentieth century, most notably by the German ethnologist Caecilie Seler-Sachs (1900) and the archeologists Enrique Juan Palacios (1928), Philip Drucker (1948) and Edwin Ferdon (1953). The latter was responsible for a map and descriptions of the main structures, whose choice of names is still in use today. Nevertheless, after the visit by the archeologist Carlos Navarrete in 1958, it remained forgotten until 1998 when a site inspection was made.

Practically unknown until then, and due to the importance of the archeological site, INAH carried out a survey to set the boundaries for the site's protection and the state government of Chiapas built a dirt road in 2000 enabling the field work to be carried out. Focusing on architectural groups B and C, nine field seasons of excavation and consolidation were held from 2003 to 2004 and from 2009 to 2016.

Architectural Group B is situated in the far northwest and highest part of the site. It has a great plaza formed by three large structures, known as B-1, B-2 and B-3, measuring about 230 by 260 feet. B-1, B-2 y B-3. Group C is to the south of Group B and the two are linked by a series of ramps on the land's natural slopes. Close to 30 sculptural monuments have been found at Group C, such as Altar 1 in front of Structure C-3, which has one zoomorphic and three anthropomorphic faces. A variety of other lesser sculptures were found, such as an eagle, once embedded as an architectural feature.

The architecture of Iglesia Vieja is typified by the use of monolithic granite cladding, slopes with cornices, recessed corners and ramps. Without a doubt its most notable architectural feature is the use of monolithic stones: extraordinarily large blocks or slabs, some of which are more than 10 feet long and weigh over 2 tons. Large stones were used at Aké and Izamal in Yucatán, El Mirador in Guatemala, Yohualichán in Puebla and at Chimalacatlán in Morelos. However it was very rare for the all of the structures to be made with monolithic blocks, as they were at Iglesia Vieja, breaking with the traditions of building technologies in Mesoamerica.

The political units which emerged in the Tonalá region, probably inhabited by proto-Zoque speakers, played a very important role owing to their strategic location in the cultural and natural corridor between the east and west of Mesoamerica. The monolithic city of Iglesia Vieja operated as a proto-Zoque capital in the Isthmus region, from the Gulf to the Pacific, on account of its position midway between Maya and Zapotec groups. It also played an important political role in terms of territorial dominance in Classic-period Mesoamerica, on a par with well-known classical cities such as Teotihuacan, Monte Albán and Tikal.
  • The temple in Structure 3 is a unique building on account of the masonry pilasters and columns used to support the timber roof beams, a perishable material.
  • From Structure C-13, on the southern boundary of the Plaza of the Sacrificial Stone (the lowest and southernmost point of the site), it is possible to see much of the coastal plain, branches of the Zanateco River, the Mar Muerto estuary and beyond to the hills of the Cerro Bernal.
IhuatzioTogether with Pátzcuaro and Tzintzuntzan, Ihuatzio was once a seat of the mighty Purépecha state. This extensive site has only been partially explored. The huatziri or elevated walkways and the Plaza de Armas, with two semi-circular pyramids called yacatas, are particularly impressive.This archeological site stands out for its unique architectural features such as the huatziri, elevated paths that delimited different spaces and provided a route into the city. Another notable characteristic is the much larger central area than found in the other settlements around Pátzcuaro Lake. It is the only one of the three seats of the Purépecha state to contain monumental sculptures. In 1908 three sculptures were unearthed, two Chac Mools and one coyote. One year later, the first official excavation of the site was led by architect Ignacio Marquina; a total of four Chac Mools and three coyote sculptures, carved in volcanic rock, were discovered during the archeological digs.

Nahua groups, influenced by Toltec culture, lived on the islands and on the shores of Pátzcuaro Lake and were the first occupants of the site, until the arrival of the Purépecha. In its heyday, Ihuatzio covered an area of about 150 hectares, and archeologists have identified 84 structures—only seven of which have been exposed. These are all accessible to the public.

The Purépecha groups that began to arrive in large numbers in the valley around Pátzcuaro Lake became dominant and gradually came to exercise control over the entire region. Ihuatzio, along with Pátzcuaro and Tzintzuntzan, would be the three main seats of power of a vast empire that spanned much of today’s state of Michoacán as well as parts of Jalisco, Guanajuato and Guerrero (longitudinally demarcated by the Balsas and Lerma rivers).

Ihuatzio was the first seat of the Purépecha state, and it later flourished to acquire great power through the conquest or subjugation of smaller communities. At the time of the Spaniards’ arrival, this group was engaged in conflicts with the Mexica.

The most outstanding structures on the site include the huatziri, elongated walls-cum-walkways that featured stepped structures on every side, and were wide enough for people to walk on them in both directions. In the eastern section of the huatziri, on the south side of the Plaza de Armas, steps provide access to the top of these huatziri walls, from where visitors can fully appreciate this construction.
  • It is believed that the Purépecha guarded their treasures in Ihuatzio.
  • Fray Pablo de la Purísima Concepción Beaumont gave the Plaza de Armas its name in his description of Ihuatzio in the early eighteenth century.
  • The great Plaza de Armas might have a court used for the ballgame.
  • Another theory is that the Plaza de Armas was a marketplace.
IxcateopanThe Mexicas conquered this site and they made it into an important trading and ceremonial center. Here they concentrated and redistributed the tributes they received from the region. There are still temples, chambers and open spaces with remnants of red stucco on the floors.
IxtépeteSituated on the outskirts of Guadalajara, this was an important trading center. Apparently its society was very hierarchic, as in the surrounding area there were small districts where artisans and the common people lived, separated from the residences of the elite. The principal temple is worth a visit.
Ixtlán del Río (Los Toriles)A unique archaeological site in Nayarit, outstanding because it contains one of the few circular temples found in Mesoamerica, together with other buildings. It was the hub of the “Copper Route” which connected, via the Pacific coast, the southwest of the present-day United States with central and southern Mesoamerica.

The first references to the Ixtlán del Río (Los Toriles) site are by historians and monks. Together, these provide an outline of the way of life in the region and the location of some pre-Hispanic settlements. According to the material and information obtained, the site’s development began in the Classic period, perhaps in the year 400, and continued through the Postclassic period, until the arrival of the Spanish. At this time, different local groups began to settle, as well as groups who had influence on or connections to other cultural areas, such as the center and north of Mexico in its various stages.

This archeological site was registered again in 1946 by the archeologist and anthropologist José Coruna Núñez, when it received the name Los Toriles de Ixtlán del Río. It is popularly known as the “bullpen” or “bull ring” by the people, becauase of the appearance of the temple dedicated to Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl, which has a circular base. The site covers an area of more than 200 acres and was a city in constant growth. Its inhabitants placed great importance on the city’s buildings which they enlarged or changed over time. Furthermore, they implemented an organized urban layout, with staircases, restricted entrances, open spaces, altars, sidewalks, drains, roads, districts and palaces all over the city, which reached its peak between 700 and 1200.

Between the years 300 BC and 600 AD a cultural complex flourished in the area known as the Shaft Tomb tradition. One of its notable characteristics is the underground funerary architecture, which is extremely varied. It has vertical, conical and bottle neck shafts, from 5 to as many as 52 feet in depth, at the end of which are one or several interconnected mortuary chambers. The Shaft Tomb tradition also includes colored ceramic, although it is not as carefully made. This tradition was succeeded by the Aztatlán culture, between 750 and 1100 AD, which included columns, porches, large open spaces, interior courtyards, central altars, roads, carved stones attached to temple walls, as well as staircases and drainage systems. This tradition is also distinguished by its obsidian working using multiple tools, by smooth red pottery for domestic use, and by the gradual abandonment of the ceremonial center.

In 1904, the French anthropologist Léon Diguet and the Norwegian ethnographer Carl Lumholtz embarked on a study of the site and its circular temple, as well as the Ahuacatlán and Ixtlán shaft tombs and the El Tambor (“The Drum”) petroglyphs. The resulting publications, supplemented with photographs, triggered the looting of archeological pieces in the region, which continued until 1970. In 1945, the US anthropologist Edward W. Gifford recorded 16 archeological sites, most of them in the Ahuacatlán valley and San José de Gracia, among them Ixtlán del Río (Los Toriles). The first classification of ceramics in the area was produced by him.

Between 1947 and 1949, José Corona Núñez undertook a full exploration and restoration of the Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl Temple. In his reports, he starts by giving an account of the serious damage done to the monument by the parish priest of Ixtlán, just before 1904, who contrived to make a cut through the center of the building. He also referred to serious damage caused by a detachment of federal soldiers to one of the staircases in 1945, acting on their general’s orders. For seven years, between 1961 and 1967, the archeologist Eduardo Contreras concluded the rescue and restoration of the Palacio de los Relieves (“The Palace of the Bas-reliefs”), the Central Altar and the Palacio de las Columnas (“The Palace of Columns”). After almost twenty years of inactivity, in 1988-1989 the archeologist Raúl Arana restored the intermediate complex of squares and altars known as Section B, where the Recinto Adoratorio (“Enclosed Sanctuary”), the Palacio de las Columnas Superpuestas (“The Palace of Overlapping Columns”), the Cuadro del Hechicero (“The Painting of the Witch”) and the Palacio de los Fogones (“The Palace of Ovens”) are found.

  • In general, the Shaft Tombs were reused. After burying one or more individuals, they were reopened to bury others. They assembled the skeletal remains of the first individuals into mounds which they placed at the ends of the mortuary chambers.
  • The Aztlán tradition also stood out for its development of metallurgy, of techniques such as lost wax, embossing, rolling and false filigree, which they used to make ornamental and ritual objects and musical instruments.
  • The clay pottery is admired for its polychromatic application of red, white, orange, black, yellowish white and brown, which are used to adorn rounded pots, earthenware pots, mortars and elegant vases with exact and symmetrical fretwork patterns, snakes, snails, feathers, waves and crosses.
  • Due to the extensive looting, floors made from clay and tiled with fine slabs were broken. Occasionally, the damage was so great that it altered the inner core and the foundations.
  • Large volumes of extracted material were used for modern buildings, causing irreparable losses that make the reconstruction of altars, promontories and mounds impossible.
IzamalOne of the most ancient cities of the Maya area (even older than Chichén Itzá and Uxmal), for centuries it was a place of pilgrimage for the inhabitants of the region. From the top of the Kinich Kak Moo pyramid there is a spectacular view.
IzapaThe ceremonial, political and religious center of Soconusco for nearly a thousand years. Among the vestiges there remain plazas, admirable stelae and altars decorated with remarkable reliefs which experts consider show the evolution from Olmec to Maya art.It is possible that the name Izapa is a corruption of the Nahuatl word "Atzacua," meaning "place where water is stored." Another possible derivation is from "Ixtapan," meaning "on top of the sands." Culturally, the city was Mixe–Zoque and Maya. It saw many changes over the centuries, from the Preclassic or Formative to the Postclassic period, that is from 1500 BC till 1200 AD. The stone sculpting era at Izapa ran from the Middle and Late Formative in 650 BC till the Early Classic in 100 AD.

The Mixe–Zoque culture, which was related to Olmec, was present in Izapa, as was Mayan culture, whose characteristics subsequently spread throughout the Mayan region during the Classic. There is evidence of Mexica enclaves, established for the purpose of gathering tribute in the coastal area of Chiapas, in the form of Nahuatl settlement names, and this is evident from Tonalá to El Salvador in Central America. The site’s mounds show a distribution of plazas or patios, which were labeled in their order of excavation, with groups A and B in the center of the core group of monuments, then C, D, E, G and H surrounding this core and F to the north of these groups. Of the above, only groups A, B and F are open to the public.

Izapa was occupied continuously from 1500 BC to 1200 AD. The regular spacing and alignment of the buildings, as well as their consistent features, show that construction followed the same basic plans. At Izapa sculpture served both practical and spiritual purposes, expressing commemorative or mythological ideas about humans or the natural world. The sculptural centerpiece is a mass of stelae and altars, cultural features associated with the most important mounds, which subsequently made their appearance in the Mayan region. Many of these stelae include the portraits of personages from the Popol Vuh legend, a narrative of the ancient creation tradition of the highland Maya. Izapa style covered the coastal areas of modern Chiapas and Guatemala. The style is characterized by stelae carved in bas relief, with a vertical order divided into three planes: the heavens, the earth and the underworld, presenting scenes of deities and personages.
  • The stelae feature numerous deities and figures drawn from fantasy: a man-bird, dragons, men or gods emerging from a serpent’s or jaguar’s mouth, rain gods brandishing axes and men venerating the gods.
  • Stela 50 is one of the earliest representations of Ah-Puch, lord of the underworld.
  • The majority of the designs include natural elements as well as celestial and astronomical phenomena. These representations were used both for seasonal rituals and for divination.
  • Stela 21 represents human sacrifice by decapitation in the presence of a great lord seated on a sedan, while Stela 5 has a richly worked cosmological scene: the tree of life uniting the heavens, earth and underworld, the axis around which life revolves.
  • Because of their content, a few of the scenes depicted in the Izapa stelae are seen as precursors to elements of classic Mayan iconography.
KabahIts name is mentioned in the Chilam Balam of Chumayel, which indicates its importance. The architecture is extraordinary, particularly the temple of Codz Pop, with its facade decorated with hundreds of masks of the god Chaac, considered one of the finest examples of Maya art.We know from the pottery remains found across various parts of the site that the story of Kabah, meaning "powerful hand" in Maya, began around the year 400 BC. It must have been a small community of hunter-gatherers during this period because there were no large architectural works at that stage. In subsequent times the development of Kabah and other Puuc region cities must have been slow since population growth was limited by the lack of a permanent water source. It was not until the year 400 when the first indications of monumental architecture appeared, following the canons of the Petén.

These structures are found in the Central Group and are distinguished by the predominance of large plinths, on top of which were small stone or wood and straw temples. The massiveness of these constructions gives the impression that their purpose was ceremonial rather than for everyday use. The quality of the construction of these buildings, as well as their layout, leads us to think that there was a large migration of people from the Guatemalan or Belizean Petén which included architects, engineers, craftsmen, and stonemasons; in other words individuals with the knowledge and skills to turn their way of seeing the world into reality.

Together with the city of Uxmal, Kabah reached the height of its splendor between 750 and 900, growing to a radius of about one and a quarter miles. At this time two of the three principal building groups were built at Kabah: the East and Northwest Groups. In these we can see the coming together of patterns of design and spatial organization particular to the Puuc region, such as the proliferation of buildings with numerous rooms organized around patios or plazas, and above all, the use of a novel building technique which enabled them to construct bigger and taller buildings. Roofed space became a central feature in this type of architecture, and there were groups with more than one hundred rooms, such as the East Group. The buildings of this period display elaborate facades decorated with stone mosaics, mostly notably on the Codz Pop, whose cascade of facade masks runs from the ceiling to the floor.

Archeologists have found evidence which shows that the governing dynasty of Kabah abandoned the site at some point around the year 950, although many of the less wealthy inhabitants continued to live in the surrounding area for up to 200 years afterwards. Around the year 1300, people still came here to carry out ceremonies even though the city had been abandoned and several of its buildings had fallen down.
  • There is a sacbe (white road) that connects Kabah with Uxmal.
  • Many of the stones from the Columns Building were used to build Hacienda Santa Ana.
  • According to legend, the Dwarf who ruled Uxmal was a native of Kabah.
  • Although corn was the main source of food throughout Mesoamerica, the inhabitants of Kabah did not consume tortillas, but prepared corn as atole, tamales and pozole.
KankíThe remains of the architecture, rising up magnificently amid the surrounding jungle, are early examples of Maya art developed in the region. The site conserves structures that create interlinking courtyards, and a palace shows traces of its previous decoration.

A medium-sized archeological site built in the monumental Puuc architectural style, Kanki allows us to observe various phases of its development over the years. In regard to its etymology, some speakers of Yucatec Maya refer to Kanki as meaning “yellow henequen,” while others suggest that the original name might have been Kancib, or “yellow wax,” in reference to the fact this product was produced in large quantities in ancient times. In fact, historical records of the Tenabo encomienda, dating from 1549, refer the inhabitants having to pay an annual tribute of “an ‘arroba’ and a half of honey and fifteen ‘arrobas’ of wax,” among many other products. Juan García de Llanos of the former town of San Francisco de Campeche, was the “encomendero” at that time. “Arrobas” were units of measurement equivalent to 25 pounds. Those fifteen arrobas of wax in the mid-sixteenth century would have weighed just over 379 pounds.

The main buildings of Kanki were built on an area of ground just over 33 feet higher than the surrounding land, though there are also smaller and more modest residential constructions built on the kankab or red soil that surrounds the nucleus of the larger structures.

Underground cisterns or chultunes were built near the palaces and residential areas in order to capture rainwater, near the palaces and domestic complexes—an important aspect of this pre-Hispanic settlement. Each one has a capacity of between 13,200 and 23,800 gallons. There are three water reservoirs or depressions in the nearby plain of reddish earth, where rainwater accumulates every year, and this undoubtedly played a part in the local inhabitants’ daily lives.

Today visitors to the site can access the Edificio de la Crestería ("Roof Comb Building”), the Casa del Oriente ("House of the East"), the Edificio de Escalera Invertida ("Building of the Inverted Stairs"), the Casa de los Veinte Aposentos ("House of the Twenty Chambers") and a part of the Southeast Courtyard. These buildings reveal different moments in the development of Puuc architecture between the years 600 and 850 AD.

The Kanki site also includes two important limestone lintels: one features the representation of the god of trade, and the other shows a warrior. These artefacts are now on display in the archeological museums of Campeche.

  • In the Building of the Inverted Stairs we can see the transition from the Petén to the Puuc architectural style (600-650 AD).
  • The Roof Comb Building, constructed between 700 and 750 AD, was originally painted red.
  • Maya building layouts typically include rectangular or square courtyards.
KinichnáPart of the architectural complex formed by Dzibanché, Lamay and Tutil, although this was a minor city. Its main building, known as the Acropolis, is an interesting pyramid of three levels, whose broad staircase leads up to two temples placed laterally.Kinichna was part of the Dzibanche settlement in the south of Quintana Roo. It could be said that Dzibanche was in reality an agglomeration of “sites” whose monumental architecture could be isolated from the residential continuum typical of the Mayan region.

The Kinichna group was built on a hill which formed part of the same area of higher ground occupied by the other groups of the archeological site. It was also the place where the first settlers of Dzibanche lived, owing to its proximity to a water source situated to the north. Over time the monumental center of the site moved towards the Escondido River which flanks Dzibanche.

The site was discovered in the early twentieth century by the archeologist Thomas W.F. Gann. Subsequently, in the 1970s, Peter Harrison viewed it as a separate archeological site from Dzibanche, and he gave it its present name; however several studies have led to Harrison’s theory being rejected.

The Kinichna group consists of a series of buildings around a plaza. Three of its sides were taken up by dwellings of very modest dimensions, while, by contrast, on the north side there is a monumental pyramid which dominates the landscape.

The two principal plinths of the Acropolis were built in the Late Preclassic. All the buildings which are currently visible are from the Early Classic. It would seem that there was an initial phase of construction in which temples were built from perishable materials on top of stonework platforms, and afterwards there were various stages of building platforms and new stone temples, all within the Early Classic.

The complex continued to operate during the Late and Terminal Classic, nevertheless it saw no significant modifications during these periods. Although it is possible to see the Peten style in its architecture, this was replaced in the middle of the Classic, approximately in the year 600, by temples with facades decorated with partially inset pilasters, very high double vaults with buttresses at the ends of the narrow galleries, and plinths with slope-and-panel construction, all of these characteristics belonging to a local style associated with the Kaan dynasty which was established during the Early Classic.
  • The Dzibanche-Kinichna complex is in a transition zone between the low forest of the north of the Yucatan peninsula and the rainy tropical forest of the Peten.
  • The presence of hieroglyphic carvings on the stairway of the Temple of the Captives and the sumptuous offerings found in the burial chambers indicate that Dzibanche was involved in the conquest of several peoples over a period of more than two centuries, led by governors of the Kaan family.
KohunlichThis is the most visited site in Quintana Roo. It has stunning residential, civic and religious complexes surrounded by jungle. The Temple of the Masks is outstanding with figures of royal personages which still retain traces of red paint and whose attire bears celestial symbols.Kohunlich is located in the low forest in the south of the state of Quintana Roo, in the municipality of Othón P. Blanco. The region’s climate is wet-tropical and the geology for the most part comprises sedimentary rock, notably limestone and gypsum.

The first mention of the site was by U.S. archeologist Raymond Merwin, who named it “Clarksville” on a map of the region which he prepared in 1912. The archeological site was later named Kohunlich which comes from the English: “cohune ridge,” cohune being a type of palm nut. The local people adapted the pronunciation to “cojumrich” until finally the archeologist Víctor Segovia named it Kohunlich, which fits better with Mayan phonetics.

The excavation of the archeological site was prompted by Ignacio Ek Dzul, a small farmer from the village of Francisco Villa, filing a complaint about the pillaging of the site in 1968. He informed the then governor of Quintana Roo, Javier Rojo Gómez, of the existence of a pre-Hispanic structure with stucco masks, and the latter made the necessary arrangements for their excavation and rescue. The archeologist Víctor Segovia Pinto began work on uncovering the Temple of the Masks in 1969 and in 1972 INAH formally took possession and custody of the archeological site. Restoration work continued during the 1970s and 80s, but it was not until the 1990s that the archeologist Enrique Nalda took over the direction of the project. After long digging seasons, Nalda managed to free the majority of the architectural complexes which today make up this extensive archeological site.

Kohunlich was populated continually during the pre-Hispanic period from approximately 500 BC to 1100 AD. Its population experienced two setbacks, it recovered from the first in the middle of the Classic period, while the second resulted in the complete abandonment of the site after 1000 AD.

The archeological site is an enormous settlement made up of a series of architectural complexes of a ceremonial and residential nature, some of which may have served as elite neighborhoods or family enclaves.

Its buildings display various stages of construction and architectural styles. The earliest may be linked to the style of the Peten region, nevertheless in the Late Classic it developed a style of its own known as Pixa’an, after the residential complex of that name which has the most complete example of the style. This style was typified by its smooth mortarless stone walls, moldings framing groups of small columns, rounded doorposts in the main entrance and embedded or recessed columns and niches in the facades. This style of architecture is also found in the buildings of the Plaza of the Stelae and the Acropolis.

Even though the reasons for the decline of Kohunlich are unknown, it is likely that ethnic diversification resulting from the arrival of numerous groups of migrants during the Late Classic and the possible establishment of autonomous political entities might have been fundamental causes of the break-up of the region, as well as the weakening of the groups which exercised power.
  • The stucco facade masks which decorate the Temple of the Masks, related to the so-called Peten style, have become a symbol of the region.
  • Only five of the original eight stucco facade masks have been preserved.
  • Its present-day name is a version of Cohune ridge from the English, meaning the ridge of the cohune nuts. Cohune nuts are similar in appearance to cranberries.
  • The Sunken Plaza was designed with the intention of draining rainwater running off the hill.
La CampanaWith the Colima volcano in the background, this site is striking because of the design of its streets and buildings, as well as the numerous stone carvings found in its squares and courtyards. An example of the first urban settlements in Mesoamerica, it developed in parallel to Teotihuacan and Monte Albán.The La Campana (“The Bell”) archeological site is situated in Colima state, in the town of Villa de Álvarez, which is part of the greater urban area of Colima. The structures found in the old pasture of La Campana are remains of the old city of Almoloyan, which in the Nahuatl language means “place among running water.” It was the most important city in the Colima territory and Western Mesoamerica during the Classic and Postclassic periods. The remnants of this settlement are delineated by the left bank of the Pereyra stream and the right bank of the Colima river.

Nowadays, the site forms part of the urban landscape and is now amazingly close to the current Colima population, who are happy to share essential aspects of their pre-Hispanic past with visitors, such as their cosmogony and cosmology beliefs.

La Campana awoke the interest of intellectuals in the region at the start of the twentieth century, such as the engineer José María Gutiérrez Santa Cruz and Dr. Miguel Galindo, who sought to protect and safeguard it. They emphasized the significance of the monuments and helped disseminate their importance and meaning. In 1994, the INAH began the archeological research project in La Campana, enabling a significant portion of the history of the societies who used to live in this city to be reconstructed.

The first settlers appeared during the Capacha ceramic period (1870-1720 BC), when simple circular structures were built in the north-west section and buildings were erected upon them using perishable materials. At the start of the Ortices period, the site’s dignitaries redesigned the city’s layout, in order to convert this small village into a metropolis. This was possibly a result of influence from the Teotihuacan culture, with which the leaders of La Campana had formed trading relationships.

They decided to build a city dedicated to the god of fire, following a layout oriented towards the Volcán de Fuego (“The Volcano of Fire”) (16º north-east). Using a four-part plan, based around two intersecting avenues (one running east-west and the other north-south), the new settlement emerged in response to the mythical and religious traditions and the political and economic interests of the group in power.

To this we may add the orientation of the main buildings in the ceremonial center, which is similar to that of the Pyramid of the Sun and the Avenue of the Dead in Teotihuacan. This may represent a western imitation of a pattern established in the Central Mexican Plateau. The structures are associated with the four regions situated between the four cardinal points, according to the daily movement of the sun from east to west and the annual transit of the sun from north to south. All of this reveals knowledge of astronomical events which were defined by astronomer-priests, as well as consideration of the Volcán de Fuego’s location when establishing the orientation of the city and its key buildings, which may have significant connotations within the Mesoamerican farming calendar.

The group who planned the settlement had the abilities to design a ceremonial-administrative center in the central area of the city. At its peak, it was characterized by a nucleus defined by monumental architecture and distinctive surrounding areas which were used for both residential purposes and for trade, craft and farming activities.

In the ceremonial center, we can see structures which have a mix of regional and Teotihuacan-style characteristics. This is a highly developed architecture with groups of different volumes represented by religious buildings and others which probably had administrative uses. In the northern section, there are residential, trade and communication areas, among others. In the ceremonial-administrative center there are also other types of structures such as large platform-like constructions, superimposed one above the other in stepped form. In the highest area there were sacred enclosures intended for members of the bureaucratic system or even as the residences of the elite, whose wanted to separate themselves from the rest of the population. In other words, they wanted to mark the social hierarchy to legitimize the governing rank and uphold the reproduction of the state through religious ideology.

The complexes are defined by four monumental platforms with ceremonial buildings constructed on top of them. Generally speaking, these sites, especially Enclosure 1A, recall the most important religious enclosure in Teotihuacan, known as La Ciudadela (“The Citadel”), as well as others with the same rectangular floor plan located in the central part of such sites. These identify settlements which have an affiliation with Teotihuacan, such as San Nicolás El Grande, Tlaxcala and Chingú, near Tula, Hidalgo.

It is important to note the alterations which were made to the most important structures in the ceremonial center, since these sought to erase the Teotihuacan-style symmetrical characteristics following the collapse of the ancient city of the Central Mexican Plateau. Another important characteristic is the presence of an underground drainage system which allows rainwater to drain from around the buildings and carries it to the rivers which delimit the settlement.
  • At the La Campana site, there are various shaft tombs which contained different domestic and ceremonial offerings.
  • In Tomb 9, an ossuary was discovered, accompanied by two sculptures, two ceramic figurines, green stone beads and two anthropomorphic masks. These elements could be a reference to the myth of the creation of man.
  • In Enclosure 1A, numerous remains of bones were found surrounded by green stone beads. Two of the skulls were covered with anthropomorphic clay masks whose lips were sewn together. This symbolizes the idea of the pre-Hispanic underworld as a place of silence.
La FerreríaThis was an important religious center as shown by the circular foundations of its temples, a pyramid with a sunken courtyard, ballcourts, altars and terraces, plus mural and cave paintings. Believed to have been the most populous and extensive site in the Guadiana Valley.

The archeological research carried out in Durango, mainly in the Guadiana valley, corresponds to the most closely studied area in the state to date. Its geographical location and the pre-Hispanic remains which have been left behind allow us to learn about the societies who used to live there.

The Chalchihuites culture developed in the valleys to the east of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range, in the present-day states of Durango, Zacatecas and the north of Jalisco, throughout a period from 200 to 1350 AD. Previously, there were other groups who lived in this area, named by various authors as the Loma San Gabriel culture.

The Chalchihuites culture has two branches: Súchil and Guadiana. The Súchil branch flourished in the present-day states of Zacatecas and the north of Jalisco, from the year 200 to 850. The most important settlement was Alta Vista. The Guadiana branch developed in the state of Durango, especially in the Guadiana valley, from 600 to 1350.

The La Ferrería site covers a large part of a small hill, and was initially referred to as the Cerro Ayala site by US anthropologist Alden Mason. This is the most important archeological site for the Chalchihuites culture, which at its maximum expansion reached as far as Zape, in the north of Durango state. A group lived here who survived essentially on the farming of corn, beans and pumpkin, and who extensively hunted, fished and foraged in order to supplement their diet.

It was also the most important location in the region for observing the sky and noteworthy features of the landscape. We see evidence of this in the sunken courtyard in the upper part of the pyramid which was built to mark the passage of time through observing the sun on the horizon of the Sierra de Registro mountain range at sunrise, as well as to establish solstices and equinoxes. The buildings from the Chalchihuites era were also aligned in accordance with the stars.

La Ferrería was a convergence point for the villages around the valley and contains the Casa Grande (“Big House”) and Casa de los Dirigentes (“House of the Leaders”) complexes, which stand out as those with the largest rooms found to date in the Guadiana valley. The former (600-1350), located on the hillside, is made up of rooms organized alongside a sunken courtyard which is in the middle of the complex. It is open on the eastern side and has a rectangular altar. It also has a drainage ditch, two water channels, staircases, platforms, a portico with columns and a possible temazcal (sweat lodge). Seven graves were discovered here. Three of them were mortuary bundles found in the corridor and the others were infilled deposits.

The House of the Leaders structure (600-1350), found to the north and at the foot of the mountain, is a complex built with artificially leveled spaces, where there is another sunken courtyard carved into the bedrock and surrounded by a series of rooms, possibly used as living quarters. During the excavations here, three primary and four secondary burials were found inside the rooms, as well as an offering of a three-legged Chalchihuite pot and another from Aztatlán. This shows the relationship between the Durango High Plateau and the Pacific coast.

  • This is the most northernly archeological site in Mesoamerica.
  • The groups who were part of the Chalchihuites culture tried to orient the walls and corners of the buildings towards important points of the landscape, such as mountains or river confluences.
  • They frequently exchanged goods with groups living on the coasts of the present-day states of Sinaloa and Nayarit.
  • Its settlers were great stonemasons, as can be seen in the staircases, the Casa Piso de Piedra (“The Stone Floor House”) and a number of stone sculptures.
La Organera XochipalaIt is famous for the mastery with which its inhabitants worked jade and jadeite to make extraordinary sculptures, masks, figures of animals and objects for rituals. It is the most representative site for palatial architecture and had the largest population of the Mezcala culture (developed in the present state of Guerrero).
La QuemadaIts origin remains a mystery. Some authors associate it with Chicomoztoc, a mythical place that the Aztecs passed through on their way to the Valley of Mexico. A powerful center of government, at its height it governed over 220 settlements and produced very distinctive architecture.

It was the biggest pre-Hispanic settlement in North-Central Mexico; no other achieved its monumental scale. It was active from the fourth to the twelfth centuries of the Common Era and at its peak (from 600 to 850) it was a governing center which controlled 220 surrounding settlements. It had a network of roads, paved with slabs over a firmly compacted clay infill. They connected to areas which supplied natural resources such as clay deposits, timber and vegetation, as well as manufacturing workshops, farming villages or sanctuaries for religious processions. In other words, these pre-Hispanic roads had various uses.

The site came to have a complex hierarchical organization and its architectural diversity testifies to the different areas of social power, such as housing for the elite, palaces, temples or public squares and ballgame courts, which could be accessed by people of different social status.

Various hypotheses have been put forward regarding the site’s origin and the background of its inhabitants. At first, it was believed that as well as groups of successor tribes of hunter gatherers from the north, settlers from Teotihuacan or people linked to this city may have lived here. Perhaps it had a defensive use against Chichimeca invasions. It may also later have become the capital of the Caxcan people, or a federation of this and other northern ethnic groups. By the time of the Spanish Conquest, it had been uninhabited for centuries.

In 1615, the evangelist and historian Fray Juan de Torquemada identified the site as one of the places where the Nahua people stopped during their pilgrimage from the north, and in 1780, the Jesuit priest Francisco Clavijero thought he saw Chicomóztoc (“place of seven caves”) in La Quemada, where the Seven Nahuatlaca Tribes came from. Thanks to the excavations and studies which began in the 1980s, it was possible to determine the archeological site’s timeline as beginning the Classic and Early Postclassic periods, developing in parallel to that of the neighboring Chalchihuite culture.

La Quemada contains structures far greater in size than any other archeological site in the region. For example, La Ciudadela (“The Citadel”), a complex surrounded by an 2,626 feet wall to the north, with walls measuring 20 feet in height and 13 feet in width; el Salón de las Columnas (“The Hall of Columns”), which extends over an area of 134 by 105 feet and may have had a roof 20 feet in height, or the Ballcourt, which at 262 by 49 feet is the largest in the area, with lateral walls of 10 and 16.5 feet in height. The Pirámide Votiva (“Votive Pyramid”) may be added to the list, with its sloping walls that are 33 feet in height, and the remains of a staircase which has collapsed at the top, where there used to be a temple. The housing areas consisted of a sunken courtyard with a temple overlooking them, like in Mesoamerica.

All of these structures were raised on platforms and terraces built on the hill of La Quemada, and the walls and columns are elegantly constructed with slabs of volcanic rock known as porphyritic rhyolite. In turn, these were coated with a clay stucco and possibly a mural decoration which has been completely lost, but can be deduced from other ancient pre-Hispanic cities. On some walls it is still possible to see the polished lime whitewash, whcih gives the city its overall appearance of elegance. 

Nowadays, we know that La Quemada was an urban pre-Hispanic settlement which controlled the Malpaso valley and extended its trade network to the canyons of Southern Zacatecas, the region of Tunal Grande, the Altos de Jalisco and part of present-day Guanajuato and Michoacán.

  • At different times, the site has been known as Tuitlan, Chicomoztoc, Coalcamatl, Cerro de los Edificios and La Quemada.


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