Monday, October 13, 2014

Cuicuilco Pyramid – Early Mesoamerican Site

Cuicuilco Pyramid
Cuicuilco is one of the early Mesoamerican sites which are believed to have been developed in Central Mexico at the time of the Formative period in 700 BC and 400 AD when it was completely destroyed due to volcanic eruption.

The site is located on the southern shore of the Texcoco Lake in the south-eastern Valley of Mexico, present day borough of Tlalpan in Mexico City. It was discovered by archaeologist Manuel Gamio in 1920 but the first investigation was done by Byron Cumming at Cuicuilco between 1923 and 1924 and this led to the discovery of the civic core of the site together with the main pyramid.

Towards 1968 when swimming pool for the Olympics was being constructed, they came across several other smaller, rectangular pyramids.The Cuicuilco pyramid is around 18 meters high and measures 20 metres in diameter, while its original height is estimated to be around 27 meters.

Gamio found four galleries with a central staircase which ascended to the summit and the site dating back to the 1st century is believed to have been one of the oldest pyramid structures predating Teotihuacan, north of Mexico City. It could also be the oldest city in the Valley of Mexico, roughly contemporary with or probably interacting with the Olmec civilization of the Gulf Coast.

First Stone Monument 

Cuicuilco Pyramid
The circular pyramid was the most important building of Cuicuilco having several superimposed altars which were found on top of the pyramid which in turn were painted red with traces of haematite. It was the first stone monument on the Mexican plateau and is truncated cone along with stone core with the rest of it made of sun dried brick having a stone facing.

The ancient city of Ticoman was discovered near the Pyramid of Cuicuilco.Archaeological discoveries, ceramic and structures portray that Cuicuilco developed during the first millennium BC as a small settlement where the inhabitants coordinated with other sites in the Mexico basin together with other distant regions.

It was originally founded as a farming village with evidence of early religious beliefs like stone offerings and the use of ceramics as grave goods and developed around large ceremonial centre with pyramids along with urban area including avenues and plazas with small shallow pools.

Dense Volcanic Lava Field – Pedregal de San Angel

At the site one will find dense volcanic lava field known as Pedregal de San Angel which covers an approximate area of 80 square km which includes the foothills of the Ajusco mountain range, reaching down to a nearby shore of the lake. Study done in 1956 indicates that the uneven lava deposits covered a depth of over 10 m in area and was the main factor for the preservation of Cuicuilco.

Moreover it was also a modern urban spot which had partial building structures that were associated with the National University of Mexico. Partial archaeological investigation could only be done with the modern building techniques causing damage to the prehistoric city.

Cuicuilco is a difficult situation due to its location and there are disputes on legislation and conservations with regards to the archaeological heritage. It main obstacle for investigation is that the area is covered entirely with lava layer.

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