Aztec archaeological sites in Mexico and towns of the Spanish colonial era

Aztec archaeological sites in Mexico and towns of the Spanish colonial era

The best 25 archaeological zones to visit in Mexico

Mexico is a country of culture and traditions, although it is true that there were more settlements in the central and southern part of the country, it is also possible to find some archaeological remains in the north.


Bonampak / Chiapas
The wall paintings that houses Bonampak are the most representative of the Mayan world, many have been the studies that have been conducted to try to determine who the characters are portrayed and what passages of history tells us each of those painted walls.
In the Acropolis, there is the Building I, in whose three rooms 112 square meters of these murals are conserved that according to have unraveled the archaeologists speak of a long battle.
Getting to Bonampak is not an easy task, because after several bifurcations of the road, you will find a dirt road that after 8 kilometers leads to a place where they will be transported by vehicles from the Lacandon community.


Cacaxtla / Tlaxcala
Cacaxtla contains some murals that could be confused with those of Bonampak for its aesthetic, it was a city that after the fall of Cholula had the hegemony of the Puebla-Tlaxcala area. It was a ceremonial center, a fortified city, had walls and defensive pits and housing areas for the elite.
His murals conjugate Mayan features and the Altiplano, in one of the most imposing can be seen the scene of a battle between Olmec jaguar warriors and Huastec bird men who are clearly losing the fight, and some are naked or in different states of dismemberment.
The Great Basamento is its most important structure, in fact it was built different ceremonial buildings and is where the priests had their homes.


Calakmul / Campeche
If you are a nature lover, and you love watching the flora and fauna, Calakmul is a city you can not miss in your itinerary to Campeche. In the middle of the reserve of the biosphere is the archaeological zone that means two adjacent mounds.
Much of the history of this site was reflected in its stelae and in the beautiful mural paintings that are not yet open to the public because they are being prepared to be exhibited. Within the site you can tour extensive ceremonial plazas and places destined for the homes of the inhabitants.
Its majestic palace is a high construction that dominates the jungle and if you arrive very early, from its summit you will be able to admire how little by little the mantle of fog rises that covers the place at night.


Cantona / Puebla
Although Cantona has not been open to the public for a short time, it was a rival of Teotihuacán, in fact it diverted the merchandise from which it had to reach that city, which contributed to its decline. However, its power was hampered by a climate change that dried up the land and forced them to emigrate.
Obsidian was one of the main products that they traded and tilled in their various workshops, and in fact, having so close the Citlaltépetl volcano from where they extracted it, they could dominate the trade of this valuable asset for the ethnic groups of the center of country. In addition by its privileged position it controlled the commerce between the center and the slope of the Gulf.
Cantona is considered the most urbanized city of prehispanic Mexico, as evidenced by the more than 500 streets and 3,000 residential patios that have been discovered, as well as its causeways over one kilometer in length. So far, 24 ball games have been discovered, which demonstrates the great importance of this site.


Chacchoben / Quintana Roo
The place of the colored corn, as the name of Chacchoben is translated, was one of the most important settlements in the lake area, and began to be populated before the birth of Christ, since the bodies of water attracted the inhabitants to settle down around you, remember that in Quintana Roo there are only underground rivers.
The different buildings remind us of the style of other sites of the Mayan culture, but due to its size, one of the great temples that we see at the beginning of these paragraphs stands out. Two stelae have also been found on the site and there are still places to explore.
In Chacchoben frequent is the sight of families of spider monkeys eating in the mamey trees.

Chichen Itza

Chichén Itza / Yucatán
It has been named one of the seven wonders of the modern world according to the New7wonders website.
Among its main structures are El Castillo, El Caracol (or observatory), the Ball Game, the Temple of the Thousand Columns.
One of the most important finds at Chichén Itzá was the sacred cenote, from which various offerings and bones were extracted from the maidens who were sacrificed to the gods, and sometimes prisoners of war were also sacrificed and thrown into that seemingly bottomless pit.
Undoubtedly one of the most important archaeological sites of the Mayan culture in Yucatan, El Castillo was one of the great temples that were built almost at the end of the splendor of that culture.


Cholula / Puebla
One of the most well-known images of Cholula is that of the church on a mound and with the Popocatépetl as a backdrop, and according to the story, the Spaniards tried to replace the indigenous gods with their God, and for that they destroyed the ancient temples and built their churches on them. More or less that is the story of this city of Puebla, which is said to have more than 300 churches.
But speaking of the archaeological zone it is necessary to mention Tlachihualteptl (that means hill made by hand), the pyramid on which the church of the Virgin of the Remedies is built and whose base is 450 meters long in each side. The Toltecs expelled from Tula were the ones who built this archaeological zone.
The strategic location of Cholula has made it a privileged place for trade among the various pre-Hispanic ethnic groups, with amazing murals in good condition that in themselves make it worth the visit.


Cobá / Quintana Roo
Nohoch mul is the highest pyramid of Cobá, previously, when it was possible to climb it, from the highest part there were three freshwater lagoons that the Mayans used to stock up. One of its most impressive structures and in a better state of preservation is the Ball Game.
One of the things that people like most about these archaeological sites is that they have respected the centennial trees that grew on the structures, giving them an overwhelming air. The archaeological zone of Cobá is quite extensive.
Its steles tell us the history of this site, which although it was not inhabited by the ruling class, it did have a sacbé of more than 100 kilometers that reached a city near Chichén Itzá.


Comalcalco / Tabasco
Of commercial character, Comalcalco (city of the comales), is the most western city of the Mayan world, in it objects belonging to ethnic groups from other latitudes have been found both towards the north of our country and towards the south to Central America.
The chontales that inhabited this area (and whose descendants still live there), were born merchants, even, they arrived until Cacaxtla in Tlaxcala. In this place the cultivation of cocoa was and is still one of the most fruitful economic activities.
The North Plaza, the Acropolis and the Tomb of the Nine Lords are the best preserved structures, and one of the attractions of this place is the contrast between the green areas and the gray and yellow tones of the walls.

Ek Balam

Ek Balam / Yucatán
Its name means Jaguar Star (according to other translators, it means Black Jaguar), and its Acropolis contains one of the most impressive samples of the stucco work done by the Mayans. That palace was built as a tomb for one of its kings.
Inside it contains a ramp used by the priests and rulers so that the people did not see them ascend, but saw them already on the top of the palace that in one of the main doors is adorned with what look like the jaws of a jaguar, and it is also possible to see, human beings with wings, as if they were angels.
From the entrance of the site we can be surprised with a magnificent Mayan arch, a sample of the advanced architecture, also in its heyday, the city was protected by a double wall that had an access in each cardinal point.

La Campana

La Campana / Colima
In Colima for its climate, and the few rains that usually fall each year, it is difficult to find pre-Hispanic settlements, however there is the Potrero de la Campana, named because before the excavation, the hill looked like a bell for its trapezoidal shape. In it we find the famous shooting tombs, places where the bodies were deposited and rich offerings and which were accessed by a vertical shot.
It is located between the Colima and Pereira rivers, which despite having little rain during the year, assured them the supply of water. Its platforms are circular or quadrangular and it is possible to appreciate a Ball Game and innumerable petroglyphs.
One of the things that most attracts the attention of the Bell is its network of drainage and water distribution, which speaks of an advanced hydraulic engineering.

La Ferreria

La Ferrería / Durango
One of the most important settlements in the Guadiana Valley was in La Ferrería Durango, in which more than twenty structures with religious, housing, pyramids, patios, functions are identified, in short, almost all types of pre-Hispanic structures are found here.
There is evidence of astronomical observation, also of a good hydraulic knowledge, because they used channels to evacuate rainwater. The Casa de los Dirigentes maintains its original drains and is oriented towards the Temascal hill, very important for the ruling elite.
There are also several engraved rocks in the area that tell us stories of daily life, hunting scenes, fertility rituals associated with the female figure, a representation of the birth of the sun, among others.


Mitla / Oaxaca
Mictlán was the name that was given in Nahuatl to the place of the dead, Hispanicized was in Mitla, this city of Zapotec and Mixtec origin surprised us by the abundant decoration in its facades, made of limestone mosaics that form frets, and that It could remind us of the decorative motifs of other archaeological sites.
After the fall of Monte Albán it was the most important site in Oaxaca, it contains five sets of monumental architecture. Also in Mitla the evangelizers built a church on one of its main palaces, that's how we see the church of San Pablo on that structure.
The monolithic columns are very important, as they were used as both structural and decorative elements. The stones of the construction of the temple of San Pablo, were obtained from the destruction of other prehispanic structures and temples.


Montealbán / Oaxaca
Only 10 kilometers away from the city of Oaxaca, is Monte Albán, a vestige of the Zapotec and Mixtec culture, since like many of the pre-Hispanic cities, it was inhabited by different cultures over time. According to its architecture, it has been determined that it was in contact with the powerful Teotihuacán.
Its main structures are the Ball Court, the Dancers Building and the South Platform. In the esplanade called Gran Plaza the merchants were located to set up the market. This city was founded around 500 BC On the top of a hill in the central valleys of Oaxaca, it reached up to 35 thousand inhabitants who lived on architecture, pottery and mural painting.


Palenque / Chiapas
Palenque is a Cultural Heritage of Humanity, it is located in the state of Chiapas, its magnificent sculptures and buildings tell us the history of man trying to understand and explain the universe.
Its most important building is the Great Palace, the Temple of the Inscriptions, the Temple of the Foliated Cross and the Great Ball Court. One of the most important findings of Palenque was undoubtedly the tomb of Pakal II, whose stele adorns this entrance, many have identified this stele as if it were an astronaut in a spaceship, and although there are many theories, it is most likely that the tree of life be portrayed, pointing the roots towards the underworld that was mysterious and attractive for the Mayans.
Undoubtedly, the palace is its most important construction, since over 400 years it was built in various styles, with several architectural elements such as a tower, four patios, foundations and stairways, among others.


Paquimé / Chihuahua
One of the few archaeological sites found in the north of the country is Paquimé, located in the state of Chihuahua, a culture that adapted to fight and survive in the great extent of the Chihuahuan desert and which recorded this with the impressive structures that We found in this place a little more than 300 kilometers from the city of Chihuahua.
In Paquimé there was the union of the southwestern United States with northern Mexico, these labyrinthine adobe buildings were a reminder of the commercial and architectural wealth that developed at the time because they had a good water distribution system and also special sites for animal species such as macaws and turtles, and others for crafts made with shell and copper.
The most striking of Paquimé is perhaps the impressive play of lights and shadows that are made when the sun strikes from different heights in those labyrinths that housed hundreds of rooms, some with a very specific function and others simply you housing.


Tajín / Veracruz
One of the most beautiful pre-Hispanic buildings, is undoubtedly the pyramid of the Niches of Tajin, located in the state of Veracruz is a great exponent of the Totonaca culture. Niches, reliefs and mural painting, are the witnesses of that city that was known as the city of the smoking temples since copal was constantly burned in its buildings.
It has 17 ball games, which archaeologists have interpreted as a sign of multiculturalism, since it was inhabited for almost 900 years, which speaks of periods of evolution within the same ethnic group.


Tamtoc / San Luis Potosí
Tamtoc was a political and religious center that reached up to 16,000 inhabitants, it was home to the Huastec culture, which we know from its buildings with a circular base or with rounded corners. The inhabitants of Tamtoc were mainly dedicated to astronomy and hydraulic engineering.
Tamtoc's other economic activities were mainly bean and corn farming, fishing and animal hunting. Its inhabitants were sedentary and knew how to work obsidian, flint, gold, basalt and copper.
An important characteristic of this culture is that it gave a very special value to the woman, since she was considered a living symbol of fertility and also mistress of time due to her menstrual cycles.


Teotihuacán / State of Mexico
One of the archaeological sites with which Mexico is identified is Teotihuacán, is one of the most important cities in the center of the country, its name in Nahuatl means city of the gods.
In its time of maximum splendor it reached 100 thousand inhabitants. Its privileged location in a valley rich in natural resources made it a city as well as important for its architecture, an economic, political, religious and cultural center of the time. The most impressive thing is that even today we do not finish unraveling all its secrets, although we know that since the times of the Aztecs it was considered a sacred site.
Its extension available to the public is 264 hectares, in them we will find the Pyramid of the Sun, the Pyramid of the Moon, the Citadel, the Causeway of the Dead, the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, so without a doubt it is best to go to Visit it and fill yourself with the energy and history that still lives within its walls.


Tula / Hidalgo
A place dedicated to trade, which had influence throughout Mesoamerica is Tula, they controlled the trade of the turquoise, and its occupation began to happen at the same time that Teotihuacán began its decline. The giants or atlantes of Tula are very tall sculptures representing warriors.
While Quetzalcoatl reigned those places, the palaces covered with feathers and jade were common, and due to the fertility of their lands there came traders who brought cocoa, precious metals, jaguar skins, jade and ceramics from Chiapas and Guatemala from other latitudes.
The Quemado Palace and the two Ball Games with their rings decorated with wavy serpents, are structures that you should not miss, and it is remarkable that the Atlanteans held a palace, implying that the exercise of war was the sustenance of the universe.


Tulum / Quintana Roo
A walled city that dominates the Caribbean Sea from above, so is Tulum, a sacred site for the Mayans, which despite being so close to the sea, has murals and structures in very good condition. In Maya it received the name of Zama, which means dawn.
The Castle, on the highest part of the cliff, has on its facades sculptures of the descending god, who has been associated sometimes with Chaac, the god of rain, is also the temple of the frescoes in whose corners can also see masks of Chaac.
The visit to the site will take perhaps an hour and a half, but if you have a chance, I recommend you go down to the beach and take a quick dip, or at least a soak in the warm waters of the Caribbean.


Tzintzuntzan / Michoacán
The Tarascans were a parallel culture in relevance to the Mexica, the great difference is that the people of Michoacán were not so warlike, however, when they were attacked by the Tenochcas they had no qualms about combating them and stopping them in their tracks, inflicting severe defeats on the most powerful Mexican rulers: Atzayácatl, Ahuizótl and Moctezuma Xocoyotzin.
The domain of the Tarascans extended from the Lerma River to the Balsas, occupying more than 75 thousand square kilometers. The city of Tzintzuntzan has a sobriety and austerity that contrasts with the ornamentation of the temples that the Spaniards had the Tarascans built.
The name has to do with the hummingbird, a bird of great importance for both the Mexica for whom he represented the god Huitzilopochtli, and for the Tarascans for whom he represented the god Tzintzuuquixu.


Uxmal / Yucatán
One of the maximum exponents of the Puuc route is the archaeological zone of Uxmal, its main buildings are the Pyramid of the Adivino, the Quadrangle of the Nuns and the House of the Doves. Among its ruins were great masks of Chaac (god of rain) and also stelae with hieroglyphs.
It is very close to the city of Merida


Xochicalco / Morelos
Sitting on a group of low hills, Xochicalco was one of the most important cities in Mesoamerica after the fall of Tenochtitlán, has civic, housing and religious buildings, and also with moats and walls, which tells us of a war era in which each city wanted to control its own territory.
Among the constructions that you can visit is the Great Pyramid, in the central square, the South Ball Game and the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpents, which suggests that some Mayan groups from the south would have emigrated to Xochicalco before the fall of their cities.
In this archaeological area we find a quite peculiar observatory because it is located inside a cave which is accessed by a stairway carved in stone.


Yaxchilán / Chiapas
The archaeological wealth of Yaxchilán is not only in its buildings, but in the texts found in its stelae, altars and lintels, which tell the history of that city state, with all its warlike conflicts, its alliances and the deeds of its rulers.
One of the peculiarities of Yaxchilán is that it has to be reached in a motorboat with an outboard motor crossing the Usumacinta River, you should not miss the Acropolis, the Labyrinth or the Ball Game, silent witnesses of the splendor of this city.
From the top of Structure 33, one of the tallest buildings in Chiapanecan archeology, it is possible to observe the winding Usumacinta River and also a part of the Guatemalan Petén, another area where the Mayan culture flourished.

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