ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES IN ZACATECAS

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Archaeological Sites in ZACATECAS

The archaeological zones of Zacatecas are also an option to receive the spring equinox. La Quemada, for example, is the most important settlement in north-central Mexico and has a large colonnaded hall with a plaza, a court for the ball game, and a pyramidal base called the Votive Pyramid.

While the Cerro del Teúl is an important Mesoamerican archaeological zone that is characterized by being one of the first industrial areas of the continent, since copper and ceramic crafts were made in it.

Archaeo-astronomical studies at the site indicate that the location of Altavista-Chalchihuites is associated with its proximity to the Tropic of Cancer, which is why it is highly recommended to visit Altavista during the summer solstice, since it is in this place where the sun returns to the south at the beginning of this season of the year.

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Map of Archaeological Sites in ZACATECAS

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This ancient ceremonial and astronomical center was established by Chalchihuites-Chichimec culture, and it was occupied more or less continuously from AD 100 to AD 1400.

Altavista o Chalchihuites
Altavista o Chalchihuites

Altavista is located almost on the Tropic of Cancer and is distinguished by a number of astronomically important features starting with the care given to its location and in the construction of its main buildings. The ancient settlers took the Sierra de Chalchihuites, on the eastern horizon, as a calendar through which they observed the annual variation of the Sun’s position.

The main structures are the Gamio Stairway, the Sun Pyramid, the Skull Temple, the Labyrinth and the Column Hall, an enclosure with square base that contains vestiges of a quadrangular chamber with 28 columns divided into four parallel rows of seven columns each, with different sizes and shapes; this alignment suggests an equivalence with the lunar cycle.

There is a site museum in a modern complex that exhibits about 350 pieces found in the area. Some of the most interesting objects are those related with funerary offerings. Hours: Daily from 09:00 to 17:00 hrs.

At the top of Cerro Chapín there are two petroglyphs of circles-crosses with calendar references very similar to those found in Teotihuacán. From here you can observe an alignment of the sun on the Picacho Peón that at the same time aligns with the labyrinth of Altavista, a hallway limited by adobe walls and embedded pilasters.

At the end of the corridor is the Observatory and every March 21st, at the spring equinox, it is visited by hundreds of people who welcome the sun after the death of winter.

From the city of Zacatecas take the Federal Highway No. 45 to Sombrerete, continue on the state road to Jiménez de Teúl (50 km), pass the villages of Chalchihuites and El Refugio, cross the Colorado River and the site is just 1 km away.

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The remote and scenic ruins of La Quemada stand on a hill. It was inhabited between about AD 300-400 and AD 1150. This ceremonial center was fortified by means of slate (volcanic tuff) masonry walls; it represents the most significant monumental settlement in north central Mexico for its architecture.

La Quemada
La Quemada

Remains of buildings of various sizes crown 50 large terraces stretching over a steep hill rising from a wide arid valley.From the upper levels of the main hill, a path leads westward for about 800m to a spur hilltop (the highest point) with the remains of a cluster of buildings called La Ciudadela (the Citadel), surrounded with walls six meters high and four meters wide.

The Hall of Columns, which measures 41 by 32 meters, has a sunken courtyard. The structure comprises eleven sturdy stone columns that might have supported a six meters high broad roof. The Ball Court is 80 meters long, and is therefore one of the longest in northern Mexico.

The Votive Pyramid, which is 10 meters high, is the site’s best-known structure; nearby are broad terraces for residential use. There is a small site museum housed in an attractive building that blends into the landscape, parking and free guides known as “Tenanches“. Hours: Daily from 09:00 to 17:00 hrs.

The exact history and purpose of the site are extremely vague and many suppositions surround the area, one theory is that it was where the Aztecs halted during their legendary wanderings toward the Valle de México. What is known for sure is that the constructions were destroyed by fire, and thus they came to be called La Quemada.

It is located 56 km from the city of Zacatecas. Take Federal Highway No. 54, to Villanueva, pass the community of Felipe Ángeles, until you find the junction to La Quemada or Chicomostoc Ruins and 2.5 km away is the entrance booth.

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This particular site is considered of monumental importance because it was occupied continuously for 16 to 17 centuries, stretching from the shaft-tomb period to the arrival of the Spaniards. It was occupied four or five centuries before La Quemada and Alta Vista and had its peak from 900 to 1300 AD.

Cerro del Teúl
Cerro del Teúl

The structures of this ceremonial center were built in four terraces built on steep hillsides. Also carved into the rock wall are horizontal and vertical channels for collecting the spring water, which oozes out of this mountain at various points.

The Main Plaza covers almost 1 square kilometer and there are two pyramidal structures are located in the middle of the plaza, a public ceremonial space and a circular altar. The Basements in Teúl and those of Teotihuacan are aligning in the same way.

A passage connects the Main Plaza with a sunken patio, surrounded by high walls. Here the archaeologists found many fragments of simple ceramics, 60 skeletons, vessels and copper objects.

A few steps from the patio we came to the I-shaped ball court, which is very nicely preserved, with two of four big statues carved in stone, which had once stood at the four extremities of the ball court.

A very good reason why this town was founded here, were the springs found throughout the Cerro del Teúl.

It is located 214 km from the city of Zacatecas. Take the Federal Highway 54 heading to Villanueva, in Jerez take Mexico 23 S to Colotlán, arriving at Manuel Caloca take the diversion to the archaeological zone.

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CERRO DE LAS VENTANAS

Since the year zero of our era, this site already evidenced forms of human life. There were several groups that over 2,000 years settled in that space and were transforming it, with impressive elevations they adapted the hill with terraces and cuts, adapting it for agriculture and human settlement.

Cerro de Las Ventanas
Cerro de Las Ventanas

They also understood that it was important to have protection, shelter, symbolic and cosmogonic spaces. An example is located on the highest rock: a stone wall covered with mud and some holes or openings that, in the distance, give the appearance of “windows”; likewise, as decoration, it has alternating stripes of two colors.

A radiocarbon dating was obtained, associated with the construction of this architectural element, which places it around the 8th century of our era. Another example is a monumental architectural complex that encompasses the entire summit. It is part of a set of buildings for ceremonial use that were in operation between the 7th and 15th centuries of our era.

The changes in the topography to adapt the architecture were transforming the appearance of the hill until building a cultural landscape, which functioned as a place of worship for at least seven or eight centuries.

It was between 600 and 1200 AD that the site’s apogee occurred. It is evidence about Zacatecas and how these peoples and societies defended their territory until the end (the arrival of the Spanish), but it was difficult for the conquerors to be able to dominate these peoples accustomed to inhospitable conditions, so they were an example of resistance . There is even talk of suicides when there was no other way out but to surrender.

Research indicates that the site was occupied in the last stage by the caxcanes, who were subdued by the conquerors in the Mixtón War, between 1540 and 1551.

Cerro de Las Ventanas is located in the town of El Remolino, near the municipal seat of Juchipila, Zacatecas. It is accessed by the Guadalajara-Saltillo federal highway.

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