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Archaeological Zone of Paquimé, Casas Grandes*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Casas Grande effigy pot p1070225.jpg
State Party  Mexico
Type Cultural
Criteria iii, iv
Reference 560
Region** Latin America and the Caribbean
Inscription history
Inscription 1998  (22nd Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

Casas Grandes (Spanish for Great Houses; also known as Paquimé) is the contemporary name given to a pre-Columbian archaeological zone and its central site, located in northwestern Mexico in the modern-day Mexican state of Chihuahua. Regarded as one of the most significant archaeological zones in the northwestern region,[1] Casas Grandes is centered in a wide, fertile valley on the Casas Grandes or San Miguel river, some 35 miles (56 km) south of Janos and 150 miles (240 km) northwest of the state capital, the city of Chihuahua. The archaeological zone is contained within the eponymous modern municipio (municipality) of Casas Grandes.[2] The valley and region has long been inhabited by indigenous groups.

Contents

Pre-Columbian culture

Between AD 1130 and 1300, the area's inhabitants began to congregate in small settlements in this wide fertile valley. The size of the settlements expanded during the 14th century, ultimately resulting in multi-storied communities which may have housed up to 2500 people. The larger communities are characterized by I-shaped Mesoamerican ballcourts, stone-faced platforms, effigy mounds, a market area and an elaborate water storage system.

Specialized craft activities included the production of copper bells and ornaments, the manufacture of beads from marine molluscs, extensive pottery production. These crafts were probably distributed by an extensive trading network. Casas Grandes pottery has a white or reddish surface, with ornamentation in blue, red, brown or black, and is sometimes considered of better manufacture than the modern pottery in the area. Effigy bowls and vessels often formed in the shape of a painted human figure. Casas Grandes pottery was traded as far north as New Mexico and Arizona and throughout northern Mexico.

The largest identified settlement is known today as Paquimé or Casas Grandes. It began as a group of 20 or more house clusters, each with a plaza and enclosing wall. These single-story adobe dwellings shared a common water system. Evidence shows that Paquimé had a complex water control system that included underground drain systems, reservoirs, channels for water to get to the homes, and a sewage system.[3]

This community was almost completely rebuilt during the 14th century. Multi-storied apartment buildings replaced the smaller dwellings. Paquimé was abandoned in the early 15th century.

Archeological ruins

At the time of the Spanish Conquest, the district of Casas Grandes was studded with artificial mounds, from which looters took large numbers of stone axes, metates or corn-grinders, and earthenware pottery vessels of various kinds.

Before significant archaeological investigation, sizable portions of ruined buildings from pre-Columbian times were still extant about half a mile from the modern community. The ruins were built of sun-dried blocks of mud and gravel, about 22 inches thick, and of irregular length, generally about 3 feet (0.91 m), probably formed and dried in place. The thick walls seem to have been plastered both inside and outside. A principal structure extended 800 feet (240 m) from north to south, and 250 feet (76 m) east to west; generally rectangular, and appears to have consisted of three separate units joined by galleries or lines of lower buildings.

The living spaces evidently varied in size from mere closets to extensive courtyards. Walls at many of the angles stand 40 to 50 feet (15 m) high, and indicate an original elevation of up to six or seven stories. Ruins about 450 feet (140 m) from the main grouping consist of a series of rooms ranged round a square court, seven to each side with a larger apartment at each corner.

In one tomb, seated mummies were found, clothed in linen and surrounded by belongings such as jewelry and pottery. A 5000 pound iron meteorite was found in one of the rooms, also carefully wrapped in linen. The meteorite is now kept in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.[4]

Excavations in one compound produced eggshell fragments, bird skeletons and traces of wooden perches which led to the conclusion that the community raised scarlet macaws, important in Mesoamerican rituals.

A major collection of Casas Grandes pottery is currently held by the Museum of Peoples and Cultures, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

Ruins similar to those of Casas Grandes exist near Gila and Salinas in New Mexico, and in Colorado, and it is probable that they all represent one cultural group related to the Mogollon culture to the north. Early ethnologist Hubert Howe Bancroft, in The Native Races of the Pacific States of North America, was disposed to relate them to the modern day Hopi, sometimes known as Moqui during his period, but today's scholars are unable to identify the descendants of the Casas Grandes people.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Phillips and Bagwell (2001)
  2. ^ Not to be confused with the adjoining, separate Chihuahan municipality, Nuevo Casas Grandes.
  3. ^ Deeds (2000), p.49
  4. ^ Rocks from Heaven, Curious Expeditions, March 4th, 2009

References

Boyd, Carolyn E. (June 1996). "Shamanic Journeys into the Otherworld of the Archaic Chichimec" (PDF reprinted online). Latin American Antiquity (Washington, DC: Society for American Archaeology) 7 (2): 152–164. doi:10.2307/971615. ISSN 1045-6635. OCLC 54395676. http://www.wac.ucla.edu/pdf/shamanicjourneyrockart.pdf.  
Cahill, Rick (1991). The Story of Casas Grandes Pottery. Julia Gates (Spanish trans.). Tucson, AZ: Boojum Books. ISBN 0-9630853-0-1. OCLC 25469407.  
Cordell, Linda S. (1994). Ancient Pueblo Peoples. Washington, D.C./Montreal: Smithsonian Books/St. Remy Press]]. ISBN 0-89599-038-5.  
Deeds, Susan M. (2000). "Legacies of Resistance, Adaptation and Tenacity: History of the Native Peoples of Northwest Mexico". in Richard E.W. Adams and Murdo J. Macleod (eds.). The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas, Vol. II: Mesoamerica, part 2. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 44–88. ISBN 0-521-65204-9. OCLC 33359444.  
Di Peso, Charles C. (1974) (8 vols.). Casas Grandes: A Fallen Trading Center of the Gran Chichimeca. Amerind Foundation, Inc. Archaeology Series, № 9. John B. Rinaldo and Gloria J. Fenner (coauthors vols. 4–8), Gloria J. Fenner (ed.), Alice Wesche (illus.). Dragoon, AZ: Amerind Foundation, in association with Northland Press (Flagstaff, AZ). ISBN 0-87358-056-7. OCLC 1243721.  
Fagan, Brian M. (1995). Ancient North America: The Archaeology of a Continent (Revised and expanded ed.). London and New York: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05075-9. OCLC 32256661.  
Phillips, David A., Jr.; and Elizabeth Arwen Bagwell (2001). "How Big Was Paquimé?". 66th Annual Meeting, Society for American Archaeology, New Orleans, April 19, 2001. Poster presentation (online reproduction by author ed.). http://www.unm.edu/~dap/howbig/howfront.html. Retrieved 2008-08-11.  
Whalen, Michael E.; and Paul E. Minnis (2001). Casas Grandes and its Hinterland: Prehistoric Regional Organization in Northwest Mexico. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. ISBN 0-8165-2097-6. OCLC 44632899.  

External links

Coordinates: 30°21′58.67″N 107°56′50.74″W / 30.3662972°N 107.9474278°W / 30.3662972; -107.9474278

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CASAS GRANDES (" Great Houses"), a small village of Mexico, in the state of Chihuahua, situated on the Casas Grandes or San Miguel river, about 35 m. S. of Llanos and 150 m. N.W. of the city of Chihuahua. The railway from Ciudad Juarez to Terrazas passes through the town. It is celebrated for the ruins of early aboriginal buildings still extant, about half a mile from its present site. They are built of "sun-dried blocks of mud and gravel, about 22 in. thick, and of irregular length, generally about 3 ft., probably formed and dried in situ." The walls are in some places about 5 ft. thick, and they seem to have been plastered both inside and outside. The principal edifice extends Boo ft. from north to south, and 250 ft. east to west; its general outline is rectangular, and it appears to have consisted of three separate piles united by galleries or lines of lower buildings. The exact plan of the whole is obscure, but the apartments evidently varied in size from mere closets to extensive courts. The walls still stand at many of the angles with a height of from 40 to 50 ft., and indicate an original elevation of several storeys, perhaps six or seven. At a distance of about 450 ft. from the main building are the substructions of a smaller edifice, consisting of a series of rooms ranged round a square court, so that there are seven to each side besides a larger apartment at each corner. The age of these buildings is unknown, as they were already in ruins at the time of the Spanish Conquest. The whole district of Casas Grandes is further studded with artificial mounds, from which are excavated from time to time large numbers of stone axes, metates or corn-grinders, and earthern vessels of various kinds. These last have a white or reddish ground, with ornamentation in blue, red, brown or black, and are of much better manufacture than the modern pottery of the country. Similar ruins to those of Casas Grandes exist near the Gila, the Salinas, and the Colorado and it is probable that they are all the erections of one people. Bancroft is disposed to assign them to the Moquis.

See vol. iv. of H. H. Bancroft's The Native Races of the Pacific States of North America, of which the principal authorities are the Noticias del Estado de Chihuahua of Escudero, who visited the ruins in 1819; an article in the first volume of the Album Mexicano, the author of which was at Casas Grandes in 1842; and the Personal Narrative of Explorations and Incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora and Chihuahua (1854), by John Russell Bartlett, who explored the locality in 1851.


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