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Prehispanic Roadway Explored by Archaeologists in Xochicalco
The study of the nearly 240 meters-long ceremonial road broadens the research area of the site located in the Mexican state of Morelos. Photo: DMC.INAH.M MARAT.
MEXICO CITY.- A Prehispanic roadway that leads to a temple built atop Coatzin Hill, in Xochicalco is being explored by archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). The study of the nearly 240 meters-long ceremonial road broadens the research area of the site located in the Mexican state of Morelos.

Labors began in July 2010, thanks to the 1 million MXP inversion provided by the Temporary Employment Program (PET) developed by INAH and the Social Development Secretariat (SEDESOL). The ancient paved roadway that leads to the top of La Bodega or Coatzin Hill, to the east of the monumental Prehispanic city of Xochicalco was cleaned from weed. An unexcavated temple is found there, with features similar to those of the Feathered Serpent Pyramid.

Archaeologist Marco Antonio Santos, director of Xochicalco Archaeological Zone, informed that 17th century chronicles give account of the roadway and the construction, as well as a 1980 sketch and photographs of the 1930’s decade, “that show the road covered with weed until now, that PET work has cleaned it up, providing information about the longitude, width, composition and architectural description”.

The archaeologist pointed out that the rediscovery changes Xochicalco settlement pattern hypothesis, which indicated that ceremonial structures were located in the center while dwellings of artisans and farmers were constructed in the suburbs.

“The roadway is delimited by two 1.5 meters-high limestone walls, covered with andesite and stucco; in the middle of the road, a 5 meters-wide paving is located, suggesting that Xochicalco dwellers gave a ceremonial use to this road, which is completely different from the other 4 roadways found at the monumental area”.

The INAH archaeologist deduces that the roadway began being constructed at the same time as the central part of Xochicalco, because it also has several constructive stages; its chronology has been determined between 650 and 900 AD, the same as the site part of the list of World Heritage issued by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) since 1999.

He remarked that this new data allows reconstructing Xochicalco history; 100 years after the exploration of the site begun, only a 10 per cent of the city is known. “Parting from this project, exploration of the first of 4 outlying sites detected to present will take place, contributing with information regarding the constitution of the city in terms of politics, economics, society and religion”.

The director of the archaeological zone considered that the roadway led to an important sacred area located in the highest point of Xochicalco, from where there’s a view of the zone, and where a temple dedicated to Quetzatcoatl, not explored yet, is found.

“We used to think that temples devoted to cult were located in the center and that people dwelled the nearby hills, but we see that hills were also sacred places. Now we ask, where did the people dwell? We must find other places where they could have settled, and determine exactly the extension of the site”, he remarked.

Once again, it has been verified that Xochicalco was built as a mirror of the universe, in symbolic terms, where buildings are aligned with some point in the horizon related to the rise of the Sun, the Moon or planets, determining the design of the city.

“We know this roadway and the atop temple have astronomical vocation because during the cleaning process a stele was located; it presented certain degradation at the center of one of its faces; this may indicate it was used as an astronomic marker that signalized, by the play of light and shadow, an important date of Mesoamerican calendar”.

The 1.5 meters high stele was created with andesite and its 4 faces were carved and painted red. It was found lying at the inferior part of the roadway. Santos informed that besides the stele, 5 architectonic elements that might have been elements of the superior part of temple, elaborated with the same decorative technique as the stele, were found.

Other contribution to the study of this peripheral area, as said by the archaeologist, is that “we have more elements to affirm the hypotheses of Quetzalcoatl being the most important deity of the site; some specialists affirm it was Tlaloc and other that it was Quetzalcoatl”.

The temple yet to be excavated was dedicated to Quetzalcoatl is the highest and it is located at 1,325 meters above the sea level; it had a panoramic view of the site and was a protective space as well, having walls and moats that guarded it, he detailed.

Other element of the non-excavated construction that supports the hypothesis of Xochicalco being dedicated to Quetzalcoatl is the east-west orientation of the roadway and the temple atop.






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