Expert opinion
Funerary Architecture and Rich Offerings
A longstanding tradition of tomb construction and complex treatment of the dead.

The Tingambato archeological site is one of the few in Michoacán to have been excavated extensively. However, we still know very little about it. Only recently have we been able to date it more accurately through controlled stratigraphic excavations and radiocarbon dating, which place it at between 450 and 700 AD.

Based on this timeline, we now believe that the oft-cited presence of talud-tablero decoration influenced by Teotihuacan must have occurred in Tingambato after the collapse of that city in 575 AD (as shown by the most recent studies). We must therefore discount the idea that it is a trait directly inherited from Teotihuacan as had originally been supposed, but is rather an echo of this metropolis. However, we do have data indicating simultaneous occupation of Tingambato and Teotihuacan, although there is as yet no archeological material that could link them.

Of note among its main buildings are two sqaure-based pyramids, which are stepped with sloping walls, one great platform that establishes a level for the entire archeological site, plazas, sunken courtyards, altars and rooms arranged around the courtyards.

Another significant element worth mentioning with regard to Tingambato is the presence of the I-shaped sunken ball court with marker rings. This is an architectural feature appearing in 650-900 AD and is one of the most valuable to have been found in the west of Mexico, which reflects the importance of this city.

As we know, Michoacán has a longstanding tradition of tomb construction and complex treatment of the dead. At Tingambato, we have found significant examples of chambers constructed underground that were used for depositing their dead accompanied by rich offerings. Its funerary architecture is undoubtedly one of the aspects that has most drawn attention to the site of Tingambato, as well as the offerings it contains.

The first mention we have of these tombs is in the newspaper La Voz de Michoacán on May 26, 1842, which reports the finding of three tombs aligned from south to north, apparently contiguously, at a distance of approximately half a mile from the town. Another two tombs have been excavated at the Tingambato site. The first was discovered on March 8, 1979, by archeologists Kuniaki Ohi and Román Piña Chan (tomb 1), and the second more recently, in 2011, by Melchor Cruz and Olga Landa (tomb 2). Thanks to geophysical methods, we are currently certain that there are at least another two in the archeological zone.

We know that the bones of at least one individual were extracted from the tombs discovered in 1842. However, the article states that they were destroyed, turning to dust when removed. Only one person was found in tomb 2, excavated in 2011. This person may have been aged between 25 and 30, and was found on a platform made of stone slabs.

Tomb 1 is a completely different case, in which a large number of bones were discovered scattered throughout the tomb. 15 complete skeletons could be identified. Based on the remains found, we conclude that between 50 and 124 individuals were buried in this chamber. Of these, we could determine that 108 were adults (59 males, 47 females and 2 undetermined), 8 were children and 8 were infants. Tomb 1 was the richest in offerings, as more than a hundred complete pieces and thousands of stone and shell beads were discovered.

Although we still know little about this great city, which covered more than 247 acres at the height of its splendor, excavations performed over the past decade have allowed us to gather more data on this settlement, which was undoubtedly one of the most important in Michoacán during the Classic and Epiclassic periods.

  • Cruz, Lauri Melchor y Olga Landa, 2013, "Tingambato. Un sitio del occidente de México y una tumba real", Arqueología Mexicana, núm. 123.
  • Ohi, Kuniaki, 2005, Tinganio. Memoria de un sitio arqueológico de la Sierra Purhepecha, Kyoto, Universidad de Estudios Extranjeros.
  • Piña Chan, Román y Ohi Kuniakí, 1982, Exploraciones arqueológicas en Tingambato, Michoacán, México, INAH.
  • Punzo, José Luis, 2016, "Nueva evidencia de la ocupación de Tingambato durante el Clásico y el Epiclásico en el Occidente de México", Arqueología Iberoamericana, núm. 30.


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