Tehuacalco Archaeological Zone: the place of rituals for the cult of water and celebration of the festivities of the agricultural calendar

28/05/2021

Pyramidal structures, petroglyphs, and sun worship caves are some of the archaeoastronomical elements found in the Archaeological Zone of Tehuacalco, in Guerrero, a place that was the ceremonial center of the ancient Yope culture, one of the few lordships at the end of the pre-Hispanic era that could never be dominated by the Mexica. Located 50 minutes from the municipality of Chilpancingo.

It is estimated that the first occupations took place around the year 400 of our era, while its peak happened towards the Epiclassic and Early Postclassic periods (650 - 1100 A.D.), when the population concentration came to cover about 80 hectares, of which 12 corresponded to the civic-ceremonial area, integrated by several pyramidals and palatial structures surrounding a central plaza.

This place known by historical sources as Yopitzingo represents the first archaeological site explored of this ancient culture. Its importance lies in the fact that it was one of the few lordships that managed to remain independent from the Tenochcas because they could never be subdued, perhaps because of the steep terrain where they settled.

Tehuacalco comes from Nahuatl, and although it has several meanings such as Place of the stone box; Place of the priests' house, and Place of the sacred water house, the closest definition is the one related to the word tehuacalli, which refers to the pre-Hispanic pools or small hollows that were created by man in the stones for ritual purposes.

Among the monumental structures in the site and whose excavation, consolidation, and restoration already concluded, the Ball Game that measures 37.80 meters in length, and the pyramid denominated as the Incinera, with a height of 20 meters and that was the headquarters of rituals on the part of priests and governors, related to the cult to the Sun, to the water, and of attainment of the time, as it demonstrates the finding of a glyph associated to the cycle of 52 years, and also to the planet Venus.

Other architectural vestiges are Structure E4, a platform with a solar marker in its front part, directed to the east. As well as Platform W, housing units with internal patios and drains, where it is supposed that high ranking or privileged characters lived in the social system of Tehuacalco.

One of the peculiar characteristics of this archaeological zone is that it is located in the middle of four prominent hills, which are located in the direction of the four cardinal points, hence the place has many elements associated with archaeoastronomy. Many of the pyramidal structures were built in the direction of the mountain La Compuerta, which is located to the east, that is, where the sun rises.

Such is the case of the building called El Palacio, a structure that has a base of about 80 meters per side and on which there are several foundations. This monument has this hill as a background that marked the solar equinox for the ancient inhabitants, the beginning of the agricultural activity, and the achievement of ritual activities.

The construction style was very peculiar because it consisted of a system that in the past was called paramento mixteco, consisting of slab stones placed vertically and horizontally with clay filling. This model allows the structures and walls to have mobility and ductility in case of earthquakes, very frequent in the region.

Another aspect that stands out in Tehuacalco is the presence of several petroglyphs associated with the ritual life of the site, such as the Stone of the Painted Feet, which shows human footprints carved on a large rock, the petroglyph of Monument W, which consists of several engraved circles that were used to count lunations, as well as several tehuacallis with circular and rectangular engravings.

Likewise, it highlights a large number of caves on the slopes of La Compuerta hill, where 57 cavities have been recorded and in which various offerings have been found. These are related to the site because it is the place that was called Tlamalollan, that is to say, the place where food was deposited to the gods.

The visit to the archaeological zone includes four thematic tours: the one that concerns the area of pre-Hispanic monuments, the petroglyphs, the ritual landscape with the hills, and the one related to the flora and fauna of the site. The site houses the Introductory Room or site museum, the administrative area, and restrooms.

The Tehuacalco Archaeological Zone is located in the intermediate point of Chilpancingo and Acapulco and can be accessed in two ways: from the Mexico-Acapulco free highway, until taking the La Haciendita-Carrizal crossroads, and by Tierra Colorada, taking the highway El Sol.

By Mexicanist, Source INAH