Cuicuilco – The Mesoamerican City Destroyed by a Volcano

Cuicuilco is a Mesoamerican city that was located on the southern shores of Lake Texcoco, in what is now the present-day borough of Tlalpan in Mexico City.

The city emerged during a period when Mesoamerican villages from the mid-Preclassic (800 BC) were merging into the large population centres of the late Preclassic (AD 100).

- Advertisement -

The city became an important regional urban and ceremonial centre comparable with Teōtīhuacān, inhabited by an estimated population of around 20,000 people that had an agricultural economy based on farming the fertile land in the surrounding lagoon basin of the Mexico Valley.

The people practiced cranial deformation using circular wraps with rigid compression devices, resulting in rounded heads or oblique tubular features that show similar characteristics of Olmecoid head portraiture, suggesting the possible interacting with the Olmec of the Gulf Coast of lowland Veracruz and Tabasco (also known as the Olmec heartland).

Image Credit : Felipe huerta hdez – CC BY-SA 3.0

Excavations at Cuicuilco have revealed several small platform structures, houses, and plazas which are estimated to have covered an area of 1,000 acres, centred on a large truncated cone pyramidal structure.

The pyramid, which is an early form of the large temple pyramids that would dominate Mesoamerican sites as Teōtīhuacān, the great Maya cities, and the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, was constructed during the 5th century BC, and was built with a stone core covered with sun-dried brick and a volcanic stone facing.

- Advertisement -

On the pyramid’s summit was a stone altar that shows traces of a red pigment (cinnarbar), suggesting that the people of Cuicuilco practiced ritual sacrifice during religious ceremonies.

A series of eruptions at the Xitle volcano during the end of the pre-Classic period released basaltic lava flows that engulfed much of the city in volcanic rock, leading to the dispersion of Cuicuilca’s people towards Toluca and Teōtīhuacān.

Teōtīhuacān hosted a large part of the Cuicuilcas and incorporated many features of their culture, giving rise to Teōtīhuacān as the centre of the Basin of Mexico for the next 500 years.

Header Image Credit : Alejandro Medina – Shutterstock

- Advertisement -
spot_img
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
spot_img

Mobile Application

spot_img

Related Articles

Archaeologists reveal hundreds of ancient monuments using LiDAR

A new study published in the journal Antiquity has revealed hundreds of previously unrecorded monuments at Baltinglass in County Wicklow, Ireland.

Archaeologists use revolutionary GPR robot to explore Viking Age site

Archaeologist from NIKU are using a revolutionary new GPR robot to explore a Viking Age site in Norway’s Sandefjord municipality.

Highway construction delayed following Bronze Age discoveries

Excavations in preparation for the S1 Expressway have delayed road construction following the discovery of two Bronze Age settlements.

Archaeologists uncover possible phallus carving at Roman Vindolanda

Excavations at the Roman fort of Vindolanda have uncovered a possible phallus carving near Hadrian’s Wall.

Carbonised Herculaneum papyrus reveals burial place of Plato

An analysis of carbonised papyrus from the Roman town of Herculaneum has revealed the burial place of Plato.

Sealed 18th century glass bottles discovered at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

As part of a $40 million Mansion Revitalisation Project, archaeologists have discovered two sealed 18th century glass bottles at George Washington's Mount Vernon.

Study suggests human occupation in Patagonia prior to the Younger Dryas period

Archaeologists have conducted a study of lithic material from the Pilauco and Los Notros sites in north-western Patagonia, revealing evidence of human occupation in the region prior to the Younger Dryas period.

Fort excavation uncovers Roman sculpture

Archaeologists excavating Stuttgart’s Roman fort have uncovered a statue depicting a Roman god.