English PDF Imprimir E-mail
Viernes, 24 de Junio de 2011 00:30





Photographic Exhibition



If roofed, all Mexico would be a museum…
Eusebio Dávalos


Contemporary photographs of landscapes with vestiges covered with thick weeds that reveal ancient and enigmatic monumental architecture, as must have been seen by European explorers, at display: Teoberto Maler, Desiré Charnay, Alfred Maudslay and Maurice de Perigny contributed to create a stereotype of what was conceived as “the new world”.

The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) since its foundation in 1939, has fulfilled the task of researching, conserving and divulgating monumental testimonies of the past. Thanks to the work of interdisciplinary teams, more than 181 archaeological sites in Mexico are open to public visit.

The photographic exhibition Mexico, archaeological land was designed with the aim of showing a selection of 126 artistic images of uncountable cultural goods distributed in 42 archaeological parks, some of them unpublished, since some sites are not yet open to public.

The artists are the photographers at the INAH Media Office, Hector Montaño, Mauricio Marat and Meliton Tapia, who show us new perspectives of the ancient cities safeguarded by INAH for the present and future generations.








Héctor Montaño Morales
Chief department of



PaquiméAt the heart of the fertile valley of Casas Grandes River, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, rises Paquime, monumental city modeled in clay, in its time the most influential cultural center of the region that includes the Mexican state of Sonora, as well as Arizona and New Mexico in the United States of America.

Europe and the rest of the world knew about this city and its splendid clay architecture thanks to the expedition of Francisco de Ibarra, documented by Baltazar de Obregon in 1584.

During the 20th century, the city was explored by Charles di Peso, revealing its secrets between 1958 and 1961. For the past few years INAH has developed integral exploration and conservation programs in the benefit of historical sites such as Paquime.

One of the most impressive archaeological sites of Northern Mexico has its astronomically oriented ceremonial complexes and altars designed to melt with the surrounding landscape, achieving it especially during sunset, when the light of the Sun colors everything with red, copper and ochre hues.

The Ballgame Court and the efficient water system; the multi-level dwelling complexes, constructed with soil architecture and wood beams, as well as the “T” shaped doors, are characteristic features of Paquime.

Located at the limit of the cultural zones defined as Northern Cultures and Mesoamerica, Paquime was a melting pot of elements from both regions. They developed thanks to the control of irrigation systems, the soil and the roadways carefully watched over.

Inhabitants developed intense regional commerce, where production and distribution of sumptuous macaw feathers was an important activity.

Although the Casas Grandes Valley was inhabited long before the Common Era, Paquime developed near 700 AD, reaching its cultural peak between 1300 and 1450 AD.







Located in the valleys of the Oriental Mountain Range (Sierra Madre Oriental) in the municipality of Mina, Nuevo Leon, flanked by Antrisco and La Zorra hills, the canyon of Potrerillos and the archaeological zone stand out due to the several deposits of lithic material and bonfires distributed along alluviums of a dry Prehistoric river, and the nearly 3,000 petroglyphs and some rock paintings which earliest manifestations date from 10,000 years ago.

The wild desert, covered in cactuses, was once an important spot for Coahuilteca hunter and gatherer groups, as rock paintings, bonfires, projectile heads, scrapers, burins, mill stones and other artifacts found in the area reveal.

Human groups took advantage of plants, roots, and fruit of the region, as well as of the animal species that lived there. Rock art manifestations include geometric designs, abstract elements, figures, grooves, hollows, all of them testifying for ancient hunting, puberty, initiation, life, fertility and death ceremonies, and for an age were humanity was deeply bonded to the natural surrounding, which they respected





Cañada de la VirgenCañada de la Virgen is an archaeological site that appears to be of Otomi affiliation, strategically located over a high plateau surrounded by gullies, in San Miguel de Allende municipality, Guanajuato, which developed vigorously between 350 and 900 AD, although its last occupation phase took place between 900 and 100 of the Common Era, apparently linked to Tolteca groups.

The settlement occupies a 12-hectares surface, in which center were built civic, religious and astronomical structures. The access to the site is a 900 meters-long and 18 wide roadway in an east-west alignment. Dwelling units and a great “jagüey” or water deposit used to store water during the wet season are also found.

The Conjunct A is the core of the settlement, and is also known as “House of the 13 skies” (Casa de los 13 Cielos) due to its astronomical function. Buildings are aligned with the main positions of the Sun and the Moon. There is a sunken yard that ends on a pyramid structure to the west, and platforms to the other 3 directions. Exploration revealed many burials were deposited at this complex, emphasizing its relevance. At the “Red Temple”, where the base ends, were found rests of a mural painting with abstract motives that refer to day and night.

To the southwest of Conjunct A raises Conjunct B, known as “House of the Night” (Casa de la Noche), also a sunken yard with smaller bases and platforms. To the north is found Complex D, known as “House of the Wind” (Casa del viento), a circular based building associated to Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl.

The complexity of the settlement, its careful planning, the orientation of structures, and the monumentality of its architecture are the evidence of a well organized society and political system where commerce might have been crucial.





According to historical sources, Mexica people, the last Nahuatlaca group from Aztlan, began a long pilgrimage near year 1100 AD to reach the Mexico Basin and found the capital city and political-religious center of Tenochtitlan in 1325 of the Common Era, in what today is Distrito Federal.
Templo Mayor
In 1430 AD, Mexica managed to dominate Tepanecas from Azcapotzalco, assuming hegemony and beginning an impressive military expansion that led to them controlling an enormous territory. Tenochtitlan city was built on an islet in the middle of Texcoco Lake, and was organized in 4 sections integrated by neighborhoods that were conformed by calpullis. The islet was connected to the land by 3 roadways, Tlacopan to the west, Iztapalapa to the south and Tepeyac to the north. There was a short roadway to the east that led to the piers.

The core of the city was occupied by the sacred precinct, where 68 temples raised, dominated by Templo Mayor, a magnificent pyramid with double staircase and 2 temples atop, the northern dedicated to Tlaloc, god of the rain, and the southern to Huitzilopochtli, god of the war. At the foot of the southern staircase was found the Coyolxauhqui monolith, goddess of the Moon.

Templo Mayor has 11 constructive stages, 7 of them complete. Associated to each of them were found numerous offerings: shells, fishes, frogs, greenstone beads, braziers and effigies in the side dedicated to Tlaloc, and skulls, knives, objects paid as tribute and fire deities at the side of Huitzilopochtli.

Templo Mayor was surrounded by a series of yards with precincts and shrines, standing out the Eagles Square, with its beautiful sculptures of birds atop; the precinct of warriors and its banquettes with reliefs that represent military processions; the tzompantli with its realistic representations of skulls, and the red temples of the north and the south, which commemorated the birth of the guardian deity.

Tenochtitlan was devastated by the troop of Hernan Cortes during the Conquest war in 1521, but thanks to the finding of the Coyolxauhqui monolith in 1978, and the beginning of the archaeological project, Templo Mayor has shown its splendid treasures and revealed great part of its history.






On a hill at the Patzcuaro Lake Riviera, in Michoacan state, is located Tzintzuntzan, “the place of hummingbirds”, the capital of the powerful Purepecha kingdom, still dominates the landscape with its characteristic “yacatas”, noble and ancient vantage points.


Upon Spaniards arrival, Tzintzuntzan, founded in 1350 AD, was a populous and important political and religious center with nearly 35,000 inhabitants. From this city, allied with Ihuatzio and Patzcuaro, Tarasca or Purepecha people extended their dominance over an enormous region of more than 75,000 square kilometers, and were considered the most serious rival by Mexicas.

Today we can appreciate a huge platform of 450 by 250 meters, leveled with the hillside and upon where the famous “yacatas” raise: they are 5 pyramidal structures that once had temples created with perishable material atop. These shrines were dedicated to Curicaueri, the Sun deity, and Tiripeme, his 4 brothers. In the surroundings were several dwelling units inhabited by the ruling class, as well as neighborhoods and specialized workshops.

As the site may not appear monumental to present, Purepecha architecture made an important use of wood, and most buildings were constructed with this material, so there are not vestiges of what must have been a splendid city.



TulaThe mythic Tollan, political capital of Toltecas, the sacred city of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, is located in the core of the Tula River Valley, in the Mexican state of Hidalgo.

The site was originally populated by groups that came from the north of Teotihuacan, and later by Tolteca-Chichimeca groups, when it became a relevant political and religious center that developed through 2 and a half centuries, between the years 900 and 1150 of the Common Era, when it influenced the afar territories of what today is Central America.

Tula presents an innovative architecture that characterizes by the use of great pilasters in palaces and other precincts. In sculpture, they created new iconography to represent warriors, military processions, birds and felines that devour hearts, atlantes and scenes related to Quetzalcoatl.

The ancient Tolteca capital extended over nearly 15 square kilometers and was inhabited by 60,000 persons; as some of its contemporary cities, it was organized in neighborhoods. The central nucleus was integrated by an enormous square, around which several structures are distributed, such as Building C, the Game court and the Tzompantli, where skulls of those sacrificed were placed.

Structure K presents a gallery of columns that finish the square to the south and the Temple of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli to the north. The structure had a great temple atop, of which the famous Tula Giants are still up.

To the sides of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli base are found 2 important dwelling complexes: the Burnt Palace and Palace of Quetzalcoatl. To the south is found the conjunct known as “Tula Chico”, which corresponds to an earlier occupation of the site, towards 650 of the Common Era.


Constructed on cliffs that abruptly rise from sandy beaches, Tulum still dominates the clear waters of the Caribbean Sea. Located at the heart of Riviera Maya, Tulum is still one of the most important ancient Maya cities in Quintana Roo.

First references of Tulum date from the Juan de Grijalva expedition, who in 1518 sighted a settlement where “a great tower” stood out, maybe “the Castle”.Tulum

Tulum is a spectacular walled city that dates from the 12th century AD, which development was interrupted by the Spanish conquest; to present it is the best example of the architectural style known as “Costa Oriental”.

A great wall protects 3 sides of the site, forming a precinct where several temples rise, as well as shrines, altars and dwelling buildings. At the corners of the wall there are great temples that resemble watchtowers, and there were 5 accesses.

There is a roadway that runs parallel to the wall at the west, where several platforms are distributed: dwellings created with perishable material were located along these platforms. Great complexes with many columns and huge roofs that functioned as palaces were also constructed, as well as temples and shrines.

House of Cenote (Casa del Cenote) stands out because a tomb was discovered under the floor, and it is also known as the Ajaw Naj or House of the Lords. The Temple of the Frescoes has a particular 2 stories architectural style and a decoration of the façade where figureheads of lord Itzamnaj were attached to the corners. Other outstanding buildings are the House of Columns or Great Palace, the House of Halach Uinic and the Temple of the Wind.

There is another walled precinct at Tulum, which was apparently the religious nucleus. The Castle outstands with its 12-meters height, the temple with portico that crowns it and columns carved that represent serpents. It also performed as a lighthouse for sailors.

Other important buildings are part of the Initial Series, where a stele with the date, which corresponds to year 564 AD was found, such as the Temple of the Descendent God, where the sculpture of a winged character is found decorates the niche over the facade.

Tulum outlived some time after the conquest; a chapel was constructed in the 16th century, and became one of the 4 great indigenous coast centers. Due to the frequent attack of pirates, it was abandoned in the 17th century and inhabited again in the 19th, during the Caste War of Yucatan, when Maya people dwelled it again.




Monte Alban, the spectacular Zapoteca city, located in what today is Oaxaca state, had an early occupation that goes back to year 500 BC, where its domination of nearby settlements began. Between 100 BC and 200 AD the city grew to lodge 15,000 inhabitants. Its peak took place between 280 and 800 of the Common Era, reaching a population of 25,000 to 30,000 inhabitants distributed in a 7 square kilometers area.

The site is located strategically on a 3-hill system (El Jaguar, Atzompa and Del Gallo) 400 meters height, modified to build terraces. The core of the site is the Main Square, a 300 by 200 meters esplanade flanked by important buildings.

Two great platforms limit the plaza where several ceremonial and residential complexes were constructed.

The pattern of the settlement is based on a square patios system, most of them sunken, flanked by structures. Bases are colossal, with wide staircases and crowned by 2-room precincts, with columns that framed the doors.

Monte Alban typical decoration is based on vertical walls, sometimes with small slopes, with reliefs where plain spaces, molding and cornices alternate.

Ballgame courts were colossal, without rings. At the corners are niches that might have displayed effigies.

Building P stands out by the small camera under the staircase, connected to a shaft that lets in a beam of light when the Sun crosses the zenith in May 8th and August 5th, dates used to design the agricultural calendar and plan fertility rites.

Building L main characteristic is its long constructive sequence that began near 500 BC. The second stage is known as Building of the Dancers due to the slabs that decorated its walls; now these male characters have been identified as sacrificed ones, because their eyes are closed, their members are broken and they were castrated.

Building J was built with a different orientation. The back façade had stone slabs with glyphs that named the cities conquered by Monte Alban.

For Zapotecas, the death ritual was very important, being tombs abundant in Monte Alban. People were buried in the hill slopes, and in cameras under palaces, being these sumptuous and elaborated: they had one or two rooms and mural paintings that represented deities.

The most famous is Tomb 7, discovered in 1932, which contained the remains of 9 people accompanied with rich offerings that included ceramic objects, jade, crystal, turquoise, bone, pearls, shells and gold.





Text: Luis Alberto Martos
Translation: Lorena Ruíz Mendoza



Última actualización el Viernes, 24 de Junio de 2011 16:45
Main page Contacts Search Contacts Search