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Teuchitlan tradition Culture – Archaeological Site
Circular stepped-pyramid at the Guachimontones location known as 'Circle 2'
Model of the site
Name: Guachimontones archaeological site
Type Mesoamerican archaeology
Location Teuchitlán, Jalisco
Region Western Mesoamerica
Coordinates 20°41′41.68″N 103°50′9.93″W / 20.6949111°N 103.8360917°W / 20.6949111; -103.8360917Coordinates: 20°41′41.68″N 103°50′9.93″W / 20.6949111°N 103.8360917°W / 20.6949111; -103.8360917
Culture Shaft tomb traditionTeuchitlan tradition
Language Nahuatl - Totorames - Cora language - Chibcha language
Chronology 300 BCE - 900 CE
Period Mesoamerican, Late Classical, Postclassical
Apogee 200 – 400 CE
INAH Web Page Guachimontones archaeological site official web page

Los Guachimontones (alternatively Huachimontones) is a prehispanic archaeological site near the Mexican town of Teuchitlán in the state of Jalisco about an hour west of Guadalajara. It is the major site of the so-called Teuchitlan tradition,[1] a complex society that existed from as early as 300 BCE until perhaps 900 CE.

The dominant features at los Guachimontones are circular stepped pyramids in the middle of circular building complexes. The 60-foot (18 m) tall pyramid at Circle 2 has 13 high steps leading to an upper level, which was then topped with another 4 high steps. A post hole was located at the very highest level, most likely for Volador ceremonies.[1] The pyramids may also have supported small temples.

The word Teuchitlán is derived from Teotzitlán or Teutzitlán interpreted as "place dedicated to the divine", "place of the God Tenoch " or "place dedicated to the revered God".[2]

Possibly the city foundation goes back to the Aztecs, which erected it on a hill called Huachimontón, north of its current location.[2] It was founded by members of Nahuatlacas groups that developed central Mexico during the postclassical period, however it is known that buildings at Teuchitlán were built prior to such development. The creative culture that constructed "'Guachimontones"' is called Teuchitlan tradition, its apogee was between 200 and 400 CE, disappearing in about 900 CE, possibly before the arrival of the Anahuaca colonists.

UNESCO World Heritage List[edit]

UNESCO has added the whole region, including the nearby tequila distilleries, to its World Heritage List. Due to heavy looting, the site was also included on the 2008 World Monuments Watch list of 100 Most Endangered Sites.


There are about 950 archaeological sites under investigation in the State of Jalisco. According to the National Institute of anthropology and history of Jalisco, there may be more than 2,000 archaeological sites in the State. Include not only large cities or ceremonial centers, as archaeological sites are considered: "any place with vestiges of ancient human activity."[3]

Teuchitlán was a village dependent of the Etzatlán lordship, was inhabited by tecos groups.[2]

The specific architectural style of this site is called "Guachimontón", and is assigned to the mounds and circular staggered levels structures. It is believed that such structures, in the particular case of the Teuchitlán were used for ceremonies to honor the wind God Ehecatl, and which included an analog of the Volador ceremony,[1] where a priest climbed the pole to honor the divinity. The pole was placed atop the structure.

It is unknown who named this site "Los Guachimontones". It is believed that Guaje comes from the Nahuatl "Huaxe" word that combined with the Spanish word "montones” (bunches), could be translated as "bunch of gourds", a common tree species in the area.


Vestiges yet to be explored, extensive investigation is required.

The site had already been visited , and then located and described in the book "Enchanted Vagabonds" (Dana Lamb, June Cleveland, Harper&Brothers, 1938). The local natives informed Lamb about the site considered by them to be sacred. The site was re-discovered in 1970 and the important research only began in 1996. However, despite little research and knowledge of the site, important information about the site is known, thanks to the work of US researcher Phil Weigand, his wife Arcelia García and a research team. He proposed the origin of the city between 200 and 400 CE and its fall in about 900 CE, although it is known it is over 2 thousand years old.[4]

The site currently covers some 19 hectares, although it is estimated that during its apogee had over 24 thousand, and it was inhabited by about 40 thousand people.[5]

As in many other places in the continent, a common denominator, for example in Calixtlahuaca[6] and in Tiahuanaco, Bolivia,[7] the Guachimontones constructions have been neglected through many years, site stones have been used to build streets and construct modern houses in Teuchitlán.[5]


Guachimontón means an enclosed place, alluding to the constructions discovered at the site: concentric circles.[5]

Although the name is of Nahuatl origin, archaeologist Weigand is certain Nahuatl was not the official language, which was instead perhaps Totorame or Chipcha. The Totorame language is a variety of Cora, a Uto-Aztecan language of Nayarit.[citation needed]

Teuchitlán Tradition[edit]

The Teuchitlan tradition was a pre-Columbian complex society that occupied areas of the modern-day Mexican states of Nayarit and Jalisco. Although evidence of Teuchitlan tradition architecture appears as early as 300 BCE, its rise is generally dated to the end of the Formative period, 200 CE.[8] The tradition is rather abruptly extinguished at the end of the Classic era, ca. 900 CE.[9]

The Teuchitlan tradition is notable for its circular central plazas and conical step pyramids. According to researcher Phil Weigand, these unusual structures are "unique in the Mesoamerican architectural repertoire and indeed are not found anywhere else in the world".[10]

Societal structure[edit]

There are several characteristics of a ranked society present within Teuchitlan tradition societies — the circular plazas, for example, were restricted to the elite.[11] However, based semi-fortified sites excavated in key mountain passes on the edge of the Teuchitlan core area, it is thought that the larger Teuchitlan tradition area was politically fragmented.[12]

The last of the tradition[edit]

The onset of the Postclassic era in western Mexico, as elsewhere in Mesoamerica, was marked by abrupt changes. In roughly 900 CE, the circular pyramids, plazas, and concentric groupings began to be replaced by the more prosaic rectangular architecture[13] – the Teuchitlán tradition had suffered a "total and definitive collapse", a change so abrupt that it has been assumed that it was driven from outside, perhaps by the ascending Tarascan state.[14]

The Teuchitlan tradition is an outgrowth of the earlier shaft tomb tradition, but with a shift away the smaller centers to larger sites such Los Guachimontones.[15]


Depiction of Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl (Quetzalcoatl combined with the attributes of Ehecatl), from the Codex Borgia

Ehecatl (Spanish: Ehécatl, Nahuatl: ehēcatl; Classical Nahuatl: Ecatl [ˈekatɬ]) is a prehispanic deity associated with the wind, who features in Aztec mythology and the mythologies of other cultures from the central Mexico region of Mesoamerica. He is most usually interpreted as the aspect of the Feathered Serpent deity (Quetzalcoatl in Aztec and other Nahua cultures) as a god of wind, and is therefore also known as Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl.[16] Ehecatl also figures prominently as one of the creator gods and culture heroes in the mythical creation accounts documented for pre-Columbian central Mexican cultures.[17]

Since the wind blows in all directions, Ehecatl was associated with all the cardinal directions. His temple was built as a cylinder in order to reduce the air resistance, and was sometimes portrayed with two protruding masks through which the wind blew.

The many round buildings in Mesoamerica, are generally related Ehécatl. The circle is a perfect geometric figure, has neither beginning nor end, it is infinite, as the gods.

The Site[edit]

Schematic Guachimontones site diagram (No scale).

The Guajes place the complex organizational system was very similar to other neighboring cultures with a ritual center and other residential places. Teuchitlán culture (the Guachimontones inhabitants) specialized in the use of the Obsidian in their crafts and sculptures, without excluding other equally important materials as Copper, Gold, Silver, Malachite, the pseudo-cloisonné paintings etc. It also was closely linked to agriculture; their irrigation system surpassed their times

The site consists of structures forming concentric circles, used to worship their gods, mainly to Ehecatl. An aerial view shows the ceremonial buildings and surrounding structures, in a perfect circle, it is believed that the community would sit there to watch, and dance with their elementary gods (wind, water, fire, Earth).

In the center of the main circular structure (its floors are an exact 52 year calendar) there is a large hole; possibly where the pole was placed, from which the priests held and rock back and forth, simulating the flight of a bird. Such tradition was an offering to Ehecatl.

The Teuchitlán Culture, as several other Mesoamerican cultures, had its own ball game. The game used a rubber ball that did not have to pass through rings, but it had to be struck with the hip to the opposite end of the court; when the ball was immobilized in one of the courts, the opposing team received points. The interesting thing about this game is the sum and subtraction, if a team had the kept at their side, they subtracted points and the opposing team added. Opposed to the general idea, the ballgame was used for political ends (territorial division, inheritance questions, etc.) or religious, where the winner won "gods immortality" in heaven, while being beheaded in the court.

Teuchitlán (means "place dedicated to the divine") was dedicated gods worship. The [Teuchitlán] civilization always made sacrifices and offerings before any building construction.

Circle 2 and the Ballcourt at Guachimontones

Such offerings consisted of large fires or corn burned beneath the platform exterior walls. There have been cases of ceramics dishes found, within or below the walls.

Today, 1500 years after the abandonment of the area by its inhabitants, Guachimontones is being restructured and rediscovered. Many of archaeological areas are in poor conditions caused by agriculture of the owners of these lands. Today, it is world heritage, which does not indicate that the work is finished, but that is just starting.

The site has little to do with known Mexico archaeological sites, its architecture can only compare with some representations of the central highlands, as Cuicuilco; paradoxically also has amazing similitudes, as the ballgame court – among the largest of Mesoamerica - barely comparable with the magnitude of the Chichen Itza court (late classic Maya site in Yucatán); its irrigation system, compares with the Calakmul hydraulic engineering system, in Campeche, from the postclassical period.[4]


The Guachimontones Site

It is a large-scale site, designed and built as a society element. The ambiance is considered “political” by archaeologists, structure complex designed to impose or maintain unity and order within the territory or to make adjustments on a large scale or long-term.[5]

Sunken circular plazas surround each pyramid and a series of smaller mounds surround the plazas. On top of the mounds are platforms that once supported wooden buildings made of wood and clay.

The site has a total of 10 circular complexes, four rectangular plazas, two ballcourts.

The excavation of the site has been the focus of archaeologists from the Colegio de Michoacán under the direction of U.S. archaeologist Phil Weigand and his wife Celia Garcia de Weigand. A large project has been underway at the site since 1998.

The circular sets suggest a restricted access for the rulers, their families and the priestly caste. The western circular sets are unique, but its geometry widely follows cosmological principles understood and shared by the people of Mesoamerica.

In the architectural Teuchitlán microcosm, rulers observed a cyclic program of ritual festivals and society in general, lived under this ritual concept.

Weigan site definition[18] of the circular mound complex is based on five diagnosed features:

  • A central pyramid.
  • An elevated circular patio surrounding the pyramid.
  • A circular sidewalk surrounding the patio.
  • Between eight and twelve rectangular platforms on the sidewalk.
  • Funerary crypts under some of the platforms.

Main Pyramid[edit]

Conical structure

The center of the largest venue is a pyramid with multiple layers and four staircases at the cardinal points. The small temple at the top was probably dedicated to a founding ancestor buried underneath. Around the circular floor of a sidewalk supports several platforms, each with a tree branches structure similar to a house; probably dedicated to ancestors or dominant lineages. To the right, a sacred spring provided water to the ritual gardens or similar purposes.[3]

Construction materials for the main buildings was stone, clay and lime. In the center of the largest venue is a multiple layer pyramid and four staircases at the cardinal points.[5]

Circle II[edit]

Known as the “Iguana”, is the second largest and best preserved. Has an impressive 115 m diameter and a perimeter of 360 m, surrounded by 10 platforms, three of them grouped together on a common base. Other smaller pyramids, had on top a pole for the ceremony of the "voladores", as can be seen in various local craftsmanship items.[4]


Four sampling probes were excavated across the patio in order to study the construction technique and the element history. Probes were made in various sectors of the circle to determine thickness at different points. These probes were directed by Dr. Phil C. Weigand and professor Efraín Cárdenas; laboratory work was under the charge of professor Acelia García Anguiano and Eugenia Fernandez.[3]

Ballgame Court[edit]

There is a ballgame court, between the two larger circles in the site. A third, smaller circle interlaces with the second. The small pyramids had "volador” ceremony poles.[5]

Possibly the Teuchitlán tradition ballgame hierarchy reflect political situations of particular sensitivity, which required solutions to social and economic problems in the court as well as on the battlefield.[19]

The third smaller circle interlaces with the second. The small pyramids used to hold the “volador posts, are depicted in various cooked ceramic models. Smaller buildings are on the left and right, towards the foot of the hill. Farming areas are grouped around the distant lake shores, while swamps occupy the rest of the basin.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Weigand, Phil and, Efraín Cárdenas. "Proyecto Arqueológico Teuchitlán" (in Spanish). Retrieved May 2008.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  2. ^ a b c "Denominación Teuchitlán, Estado de Jalisco" [Teuchitlán designation, Jalisco State] (in Spanish). Enciclopedia de los Municipios de México. Retrieved Sep 2010.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  3. ^ a b c d Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente (ITESO (2000). "El antiguo occidente de México. Arte y arqueología de un pasado desconocido" [The ancient western Mexico. Art and archaeology from an unknown past] (in Spanish). Instituto de Arte de Chicago, Secretaría de Cultura Gobierno de Jalisco, Tequila Sauza, S.A. de C.V. Retrieved Sep 2010.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help) Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, MEXICO.
  4. ^ a b c Juárez Cortés, Eduardo. "Conoce Mexico" (in Spanish). Buen Viaje. Retrieved Sep 2010.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help) Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Rev" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  5. ^ a b c d e f "zona arqueológica de guachimontones" [Guachimontones archaeological site]. INAH (in Spanish). Mexico. Retrieved Sep 2010.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  6. ^ At Calixtlahuaca, stones from the site were used in the construction of a nearby church, some of the stones used in the walls of the Church contain petroglyphs, the sacrificial stone, it is located in the atrium of the same church
  7. ^ In Tiahuanaco site stones were used as sleepers in the construction of a railway passing very close on the North of the site.
  8. ^ See Smith, p. 24.
  9. ^ Beekman (2000) abstract.
    *Also Weigand and Beekman (1999).
  10. ^ Weigand (2001), p. 402. Michael E. Smith says "The circular layouts that structure these settlements are unique within Mesoamerica" but mentions the "circular capitals" of the Parthian and Sassanian cultures, p. 22.
  11. ^ Weigand and Beekman (1999).
  12. ^ Beekman, 1994. Beekman, 1996.
  13. ^ Weigand and Cárdenas.
  14. ^ Williams.
  15. ^ Beekman (1994) p. 3.
  16. ^ Miller and Taube (1993, p.84)
  17. ^ Miller and Taube (1993, pp.70,84)
  18. ^ Witmore, Christopher L. "Centros solares sagrados en El antiguo occidente de México" [sacred Solar centres in ancient western Mexico] (in Spanish).  Check date values in: |access-date= (help);
  19. ^ Stevenson Day, Yane. "El juego de pelota del occidente en El antiguo occidente de México" [Western ballgame in ancient western Mexico] (in Spanish). Retrieved Sep 2010.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)


  • Smith, Julian (2006) "Surprise Finds in Tequila Country" in Archaeology magazine November/December 2006.
  • Weigand, Phil and Efraín Cárdenas, "Proyecto Arqueológico Teuchitlán", accessed May 2008.
  • Miller, Wick. (1983). Uto-Aztecan languages. In W. C. Sturtevant (Ed.), Handbook of North American Indians (Vol. 10, pp. 113-124). Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution.
  • McMahon, Ambrosio & Maria Aiton de McMahon. (1959) Vocabulario Cora. Serie de Vocabularios Indigenas Mariano Silva y Aceves. SIL.
  • Casad, Eugene H.. 2001. "Cora: a no longer unknown Southern Uto-Aztecan language." In José Luis Moctezuma Zamarrón and Jane H. Hill (eds), Avances y balances de lenguas yutoaztecas; homenaje a Wick R. Miller p. 109-122. Mexico, D.F.: Instituto Nacional de Antropología y Historia.
  • Beekman, Christopher S (1994) "A Classic Period Political Boundary in the Sierra La Primavera Region, Jalisco, Mexico", presented at the 59th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Anaheim.
  • Beekman, Christopher S (1996) "Political Boundaries and Political Structure: the Limits of the Teuchitlan Tradition" in Ancient Mesoamerica, Vol 7, No 1, pp. 135–147.
  • Smith, Michael E. (2007) "Form and Meaning in the Earliest Cities: A New Approach to Ancient Urban Planning" in Journal of Planning History, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 3–47.
  • Weigand, Phil (2001). "West Mexico Classic". In Ember, Melvin; Peregrine, Peter Neal. Encyclopedia of Prehistory. 5 : Middle America. Springer. p. 402. ISBN 0-306-46259-1. 
  • Weigand, Phil C. and Christopher S. Beekman (1999) "La Civilización Teuchitlan" in La Jornada, Suplemento Cultural, vol 210, no 1-4. Accessed May 2008.
  • Weigand, Phil and Efraín Cárdenas, "Proyecto Arqueológico Teuchitlán", accessed May 2008.
  • Williams, Eduardo, "Prehispanic West México: A Mesoamerican Culture Area", Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc., accessed May 2008.
  • Lamb, Dana (1938), "Enchanted Vagabonds", Harper & Brothers, Map. p. 99, p. 130-131.

External links[edit]