• INAH-DMC/Mauricio Marat
    INAH-DMC/Mauricio Marat
  • NAH-DMC/Mauricio Marat
    NAH-DMC/Mauricio Marat
  • INAH-DMC/Mauricio Marat
    INAH-DMC/Mauricio Marat
Cempoala
Abundant water or the place of twenty
This powerful Totonac capital once dominated a large area of present day Veracruz and the north of the state of Puebla. Temples, palaces, plazas and fortifications testify to its importance as a political and religious center. Subjugated by the Mexica empire, it allied itself with Hernán Cortés to defeat Moctezuma.
About the site
Cempoala was one of the most important centers of Totonac culture, with origins going back to 900 BC, when groups of Totonacs displaced by the Toltec empire left the slopes of the Sierra Madre Occidental in search of fertile lands free from the control of Tula. In the late Postclassic period they fell under the sway of the Mexica and from that point Cempoala became the principal city of 50 Totonac, Chinantec and Zapotec towns, the place for collecting all the tribute from the coast and the mountainous regions of the south. In 1519 Hernán Cortés and his troops formed an alliance with the "Fat Cacique" of Cempoala to fight Tenochtitlan.

Cempoala’s territorial organization was spread out, with areas of production within and outside the city. This site had a complex infrastructure to regulate water, a system of barriers to protect the city from constant flooding, and a hydraulic network which channeled the waters of the river Actopan, or Chachalacas, to the city while wastewater was channeled by conduits from houses and buildings to the farm land.

The main constructions of this city are the Great Pyramid or Temple of the Sun, the Great Temple, the square-based Temple of Quetzalcoatl and the Temple of the wind god Ehecatl, with a circular base like the Temple of the Chimneys and El Pimiento, a structure which has three volumes decorated with stone skulls. Another important structure is Las Caritas, which has two levels and is decorated with stucco skulls. Three rings of stepped stone were found in one of the plazas. They were used by the priests to measure time, the harvests and the eclipses.
418944
INAH-FN/Rafael García
Temple of La Calera, close-up
419140
INAH-FN/Rafael García
Imprint of a stela
418706
INAH-FN/Rafael García
Francisco del Paso y Troncoso and members of the expedition, portrait
302430
INAH-FN
Pre-Hispanic mural painting from Cempoala, detail
302427
INAH-FN
Northwest view of the building of three volumes, the Great Temple of Cempoala
418708
INAH-FN
Round momoztli (altar) in plaza no. 54, Francisco del Paso y Troncoso in the center
418702
INAH-FN/Rafael García
Consolidation work on the Temple of the Chimneys
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INAH-FN/Rafael García
Discovery of a Chac Mool during excavation
351690
INAH-FN/Rafael García
Workers during archeological excavations at Cempoala
900 - 1521

Clásico Tardío a Posclásico
1463 - 1519

Posclásico

Did you know...
  • The ancient city of Cempoala was the scene of important events during the conquest of Mexico.
  • The enmity between the people of Cempoala and the Mexica enabled Hernán Cortés to form an alliance with 30 Totonac-speaking towns against the Mexica in April 1519.
  • In August 1519 the people of Cempoala guided the army of Cortés to Tlaxcala, where he relieved them, since he did not view them as warriors.
  • Under the orders of Diego Velázquez, the Governor of Cuba, Pánfilo de Narváez established himself in Cempoala in order to quell Cortés. However he was attacked by surprise and Cortés won the battle, but the city suffered the consequences, being nearly destroyed in the process.
Practical information
Temporarily closed
Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 to 17:00 hrs

$55.00 pesos


  • Sundays free for Mexican citizens
  • Free entrance for Mexicans under 13 years old
  • Free entrance for Mexican students and teachers
  • Free entrance for Mexican senior citizens
  • Admission includes museum fee
Se localiza en la llanura costera

From the Port of Veracruz, take Federal Highway 180 towards Poza Rica; in the town of Higuera Blanca take the turn off for Villa Zempoala.

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Responsable Regional
Raul Jimenez Huerta
+52 (229) 934 9981 y 934 5282
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INAH-DMC/Mauricio Marat
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Golfo
Museo de Sitio de Cempoala
Poderosa capital totonaca, dominó gran parte del actual estado de Veracruz y el norte de Puebla. Templos, palacios, plazas y fortificaciones dan cuenta de su importancia como centro político-religioso. Sometida por el imperio mexica, se alió con Hernán Cortés para derrotar a Moctezuma.
This powerful Totonac capital once dominated a large area of present day Veracruz and the north of the state of Puebla. Temples, palaces, plazas and fortifications testify to its importance as a political and religious center. Subjugated by the Mexica empire, it allied itself with Hernán Cortés to defeat Moctezuma.
Abundancia de agua o lugar de veinte
Abundant water or the place of twenty

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