Casas Grandes—A Sacred Ancient Site Unlike Any Other

Archaeologists have uncovered only 20 percent of the ancient site.

The archaeological site of Paquime, commonly referred to as Casas Grandes is located in the state of Chihuahua, in northern Mexico. The site covered an area of 36 hectares of which archaeologists have uncovered only 20 percent.

This capital of ‘ancient Mexico’ is one of the most fabulous examples of ancient architecture, as well as the ability of ancient man to adapt to inhospitable environments, while at the same time developing a remarkable ancient culture.

But that’s not the only reason why this ancient site stands out from all others.

If you take a look at the various archaeological sites in Mexico, you will notice that cultures like the Maya, Olmeca and Mexica built stunning ancient cities, home to massive pyramids, beautiful temples, and massive plazas.  Their styles while different, share many similarities in architecture and design.

T-shaped doorway at Paquimé. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Casas Grandes, on the other hand, is unlike any other ancient site in Mexico.

The site is different.

It does not share architectural elements with other ancient sites located to the south.

That’s because the origin of the culture that built Casas Grandes comes from the north.

The so-called Pueblo culture of the southwestern United States of America -based on agriculture-, spread slowly to the south in the first millennium of our era.

It was so that in the eighth century, the population of Mogollón, from New Mexico, founded a village of underground houses on the site of Casas Grandes whose development was sustained until the mid-twelfth century when it suffered a disastrous expansion and a cultural change.

Macaw Pens at Paquimé. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Macaw Pens at Paquimé. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The underground residences were then replaced by more elaborate ones, built of adobe on the surface, and placed an in intricate layout.

The presence of elements such as stunning mound platforms, evidence of ball games, a sophisticated system of water distribution, as well as specialized storages built to house exotic species such as macaws and turtles, shell and copper artifacts, indicate the influence of this ancient site to surrounding sites and their commercial reach.

Slowly but steadily, Paquimé (Casas Grandes) became a large commercial center that managed to bring together the southwestern United States and northern Mexico through the exchange of not only valuable artifacts but culture and history.

Wide view of Paquime. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Wide view of Paquime. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

At its peak, sometime during the XIV century and the beginning of the XV century, Casas Grandes had a population of ten thousand inhabitants, becoming one of the largest in North America.

After the conquest of Tenochtitlan, the European economic and social model was imposed in the region, but Paquimé was left mostly untouched by it.

Its population declined at the end of the XVII century.

Today, the ancient site of Casas Grandes is regarded as an eloquent and abundant testimony of the cultural evolution of North America, and in particular of the commercial and cultural pre-Hispanic cultures of the region.

Its extensive ruins provide an exceptional example of the development of adobe architecture in the north of the American continent, particularly its mixture with the most advanced construction techniques of Mesoamerica.

The site is, without a reason of a doubt, an ancient site all Mexicans should be more than proud of, and a site that you and I should know of.

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