ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES IN AGUASCALIENTES
Archaeological Zones in AGUASCALIENTES
The state of Aguascalientes is probably one of the least studied entities in terms of archaeology. Until a few decades ago, the history of the state began with the founding of the city of Aguascalientes, and little or nothing was mentioned about the indigenous populations that were not in opposition to the Spanish colonizing efforts, whether they were the so-called Chichimecas or some ethnic group related to them.
From the nineties of the last century, however, formal investigations would begin, and until the year 2000 an archaeological site was finally investigated constantly by INAH personnel. Based on these new investigations, the entity’s indigenous past began to be explored, and in the present a richer panorama is being discovered than would have been thought.
In contrast, the surrounding regions of Aguascalientes have a longer history of research, and therefore, to understand the pre-Hispanic past of what is now Aguascalientes, its territory must be integrated into a region that far exceeds the current limits of the entity. This extended region is commonly identified in specialized literature as “the northern border of Mesoamerica”.
Dueñas García, Manuel de Jesús, “La arqueología de Aguascalientes”, Arqueología Mexicana, núm. 167, pp. 28-35.
Before the colony, the history of Aguascalientes was reduced to a place of passage for nomadic and semi-nomadic Chichimeca peoples. Now, thanks to research by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), it has been shown that ancient settlers with their own organization and worldview settled in these territories.
These are four archaeological zones, El Ocote, La Montesita, Cerro de Enmedio and Cerro de Santiago, which have also been delimited for their cultural value as geosites by the UNESCO Geopark Project “Water Routes” where it is sought that in each of the areas that compose it stand out, not only for their geological value, but also for their biodiversity, natural and cultural wealth, the inclusion of surrounding communities and collective enjoyment.
Located southeast of the current state of Aguascalientes, on the border with Jalisco, the site of El Ocote is in an environmental transition zone, as it has access to resources from a forest area (which in the past was surely larger) and of low deciduous forest. The human settlement is distributed on and around Los Tecuanes hill, whose approximate area is 17 ha; in its vicinity it has some springs, as well as a stream that currently has intermittent flow.
Los Tecuanes hill is an extrusive volcanic rock formation identified as ignimbrite, with the presence of consolidated tuff and rhyolite, a rocky substrate that was used for different purposes. A construction zone is observed on the top of the hill whose function probably corresponded to activities associated with the worldview of its inhabitants.
Pelz Marín, Ana María, “El Ocote, Aguascalientes”, Arqueología Mexicana, núm. 167, pp. 48-53.
At the top of the Cerro de los Tecuanes you can find several pyramidal bases. The site has an extension of 60 ha. The development of the settlement took place mainly between 650 and 900 AD, in the so-called Epiclassic period; hence, it is still not possible to define the groups that lived here, although it is clear that they predate the Chichimeca tribes.
In this archaeological zone, you can see several remains and cave paintings where anthropomorphic and zoomorphic representations are observed. Here 80,000 ceramic fragments have been found, of which 200 bone tools, 200 ornamental pieces, as well as 32 bodies and skeletons have been identified in burial sites. As if this were not enough, in El Ocote sanctuaries have been found on the top of the hill, altars and cave paintings.
At the foot of Cerro de los Tecuanes, grinding objects, bone remains of animals, stoves, tools made of flint, obsidian and rhyolite were found; in addition to clay objects and bone instruments; also seeds. In this place there were also indications of a post, column bases and objects related to the construction.
In 2011, in response to a report of findings of archaeological materials, representatives of the INAH Aguascalientes Center went to the scene of the events and identified an archaeological site with intense looting. Around some looting pits, fragments of ceramics, bones and lithic objects were found on the surface. In addition, remains of structures were found, some of which clearly exceeded the size of simple dwellings. Most of the site is in the ejido of Las Negritas, in the municipality of Puesta, in the extreme east of the state of Aguascalientes, and another part is in the ejido of Los Campos, Zacatecas.
To follow up on these discoveries, the La Montesita Archaeological Project (Proyecto Arqueológico La Montesita (PALM)) was started, which is developed by professors and students of the Archeology degree at the Autonomous University of San Luis Potosí, in close collaboration with the INAH Aguascalientes Center. Within the framework of the project, so far, six field seasons have been carried out.
A review of the archaeological literature on the region showed that some references already existed to a site at this location, identified as one of the largest in the region, and named primarily in connection with its cave paintings. The hill of La Montesita itself, which gives the site its name, is a rocky outcrop with a maximum height of 2,246 meters above sea level. The region in which it is found is characterized by a temperate semi-dry climate with thorny desert forest vegetation. Today the site is a place of passage for shepherds who go to the rainfed water sources.
Schulze, Niklas y Gilberto Pérez Roldán, “La Montesita, Aguascalientes”, Arqueología Mexicana, núm. 167, pp. 42-47.
Cerro de en Medio
El Cerro de en Medio archaeological site is exceptional in more ways than one. Its name derives from its peculiar location, a table in the middle of a canyon; but unlike the other sites of the Verde Grande River, and in particular Aguascalientes, the ceremonial center and the residential area are located on the top of the hill.
In addition to this, its difficult access between canyons makes us wonder about the defensive character it could have had. The site began to be studied in the 1990s, and the first explorations interpreted it as a camp for semi-nomadic societies, a judgment based mainly on a partial exploration of the settlement and inspired by the chronicles of the Spanish invasion.
It was not until 2012 that due to the intensive work on the site, the maps were updated, the surface constructions were recorded in detail, and the analysis of materials recovered on the surface and in archaeological excavations began.
Dueñas García, Manuel de Jesús y Miriam Selene Campos Martínez. “El Cerro de en Medio, Aguascalientes. Asentamiento prehispánico escondido entre cañones”, Arqueología Mexicana, núm. 167, pp. 54-59.
Cerro de Santiago
Aguascalientes is in many ways an unknown land in terms of knowledge and understanding of pre-Hispanic cultures. Recent studies at the Cerro de Santiago archaeological site show a population whose characteristics link it to its southern neighbors, since it has Mesoamerican features that indicate a macro-regional interaction during the Epiclassic. In the northern border of Mesoamerica, which includes the Lerma-Santiago region, very important events took place during the Late Classic and the Epiclassic.
In the Lerma-Santiago region is the Verde Grande river basin, which covers southern Zacatecas, most of the state of Aguascalientes, a small part of northwestern Guanajuato, and a large part of the Jalisco mountains. The cultural expansion that took place during the Late Classic did not have great natural barriers that limited the contacts between them, perhaps for this reason the notable similarities.
Recent research on the Cerro de Santiago archaeological site, north of the Verde Grande River, yields new data that reveals not only the pre-Hispanic occupation, but also shows the process of interaction that took place along the expansive northern border of Mesoamerica. Recent studies of northern Mesoamerica have focused mainly on trying to explain the appearance and subsequent abandonment of populations with Mesoamerican characteristics.
Caretta, M. Nicolás y Becket Lailson Tinoco, “Cerro de Santiago, Aguascalientes”, Arqueología Mexicana, núm. 167, pp. 36-41.
Cave Paintings El Tepozán
They are anthropomorphic figures of different colors with superimpositions that correspond to different times. To date, five overlays have been found and each of them is a different color such as black, orange, red, white and yellow. The black ones are the oldest. The best preserved paintings are blank and represent schematic anthropomorphic figures that represent bodies dressed in headdresses, weapons or canes.
There are also some large yellow paintings that represent Caravaca crosses, as well as other smaller crosses and graffiti of the same. color that seek to cover the previous glyphs.They are located in the municipality of Calvillo in a cave that is known as El Meco, under the shelter of a large rock. To get there you have to cross a dirt path until you reach some rocks and cross a river that is surrounded by coniferous trees.
You can practice various activities such as mountain biking, 4×4 jeep rides, motorcycles, rappelling, hiking. At the dam it is possible to do recreational fishing and enjoy boat rides. Its spring of blue water, which flows between the stones is called Ojo de Agua, it is a place of natural beauty that is accompanied by a varied wild vegetation, ideal for nature lovers. The impressive waterfall can be seen during the rainy season, which flows into a river that also offers incomparable landscapes.
In 2014 a stone engraving called “El Vigilante” (The Vigilant) was discovered, considered as a unique piece in the State and the region. It was located at the base of the Huenchos waterfall, and the site is also something special.
The human figure was found with damage that highlights the interest of the perpetrators in detaching the piece from its site; and that time, the INAH estimated that the petroglyph dated from the year 200 to 700 of our era.
The discovery of the pre-Hispanic piece at the foot of the waterfall was a 10-ton monolith, masculine in appearance that wore a headdress and earmuffs as ornamental elements, due to its design characteristics it is associated with the classic Teotihuacan period; an invaluable and unique sculpture in the State and the region, according to specialists. It was believed that the piece could come from a population settled in the Huejucar valley (today Calvillo), prior to the Chichimeca settlements.
In 2021, a two-meter-high pre-Hispanic female sculpture was discovered, an ancient statue of a woman, linked to the Huasteca culture, but this time the piece was found in perfect condition.
Map of Archaeological Sites in AGUASCALIENTES
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