Paquimé is a unique archaeological site in Mexico.
Paquimé was considered a significant manifestation of the cultural and architectural evolution of North America, especially of commercial and cultural links of the Mesoamerican region.
What is the archaeological site of Paquimé?
Paquimé is the largest archaeological zone in northern Mexico, representing the peoples and cultures of the Chihuahua Desert. In ancient Mexico, it is a unique.
Its extensive ruins provide an exceptional example of the development of adobe architecture in the north of the American continent, particularly the mixture of adobe architecture with the most advanced construction techniques of Mesoamerica.
Where is Paquimé?
The archaeological zone of Paquimé is located in the northwestern part of the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. It is at the foot of the Sierra Madre Occidental range in the Municipality of Casas Grandes, Chihuahua.
History of Paquimé
During the first millennium, the Pueblo indigenous culture of the southwestern United States spread slowly southward.
In the 700’s, the Mogollón culture founded Paquimé. The Mogollon culture is one of the most well-known Mesoamerican cultures of what is now the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. A community of underground houses was founded on the site of Casas Grandes.
In the mid 1100’s disastrous expansion occurred along with cultural change. The subterranean residences became elaborate.
Paquimé was key in commercial and cultural contacts between the cultures inhabiting what is now the southwestern United States and Northern Mexico, and other Mesoamerican civilizations.
At its peak, 1300’s and early 1400’s, Paquimé had a population of 10,000 inhabitants, one of the largest in North America.
Photo credit: INAH
At the end of the 1600’s, its population declined, when Spanish colonization led to the departure of its last surviving inhabitants.
Architecture and description of Paquimé
The architecture illustrates an outstanding example of the organization of space. It marked an era in the development of the architecture of urbanization in ancient Mexico. Unfired clay (adobe) was the building material used, exceptional evidence of the development of adobe architecture.
The archaeological zone consists of 146 hectares and there are several spaces to visit in this area.
There are impressive buildings, mostly residential. These structures were several stories high. Ceremonial buildings had masonry coatings.
Archaeologists estimate remains of at least 2,000 rooms. There are clusters of living rooms, workshops and stores, and patios. The rooms have doors in a “T” shape.
The site still maintains its original planning: an axis of housing units, an axis of squares, and an axis of ceremonial buildings.
Specialized buildings were also constructed.
The Casa de los Hornos includes nine rooms and two small squares. Holes were found inside that are believed to have been used to cook agave or sotol.
The House of Snakes originally consisted of twenty-four single rooms, two double rooms, three vestibules, and three plazas. Later, it was adapted to breed and house exotic species such as macaws and turtles.
In the House of the Macaws, 122 birds were found buried under the floor. Two ball courts were also found.
The archaeological site of Paquimé clearly represents a culture that was perfectly adapted to its physical and economic environment.
Through the presence of platforms, mounds, ball courts, a sophisticated water system, and specialized buildings, Paquimé is a site that clearly influenced more advanced civilizations in Mesoamerica.
Paquimé is preserved as an exceptional archaeological zone. Conservation and maintenance interventions have maintained the site and there are currently no large threats. It is a major archaeological reserve with a high degree of authenticity.
Only 20% of the site has been explored. The site has remained largely unexcavated.
Protection and management of the archaeological zone are supported by Mexican Federal Law.
The Archaeological Monuments Zone of Paquimé was created by Presidential Decree in 1992.
The site is managed by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).
Note: If you plan to visit and want to know more about the site, the Museum of Northern Cultures is next to Paquimé.
Here is one of the most interesting archaeological collections in northern Mexico. It exhibits ceramics, polychrome type pieces, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic vessels, textiles, semi-precious stones, and skeletal remains.