The archaeological sites in northern Mexico illustrate a connection between North American pueblo culture and more highly developed Central American cultures. Paquimé was a trading post with about 3500 residents. Shortly before the arrival of the Spaniards, the settlement was abandoned for reasons that have not yet been clarified.
|Official title:||Archaeological sites of Paquimé in Casas Grandes|
|Cultural monument:||originally a pre-Columbian town built using clay construction with up to 3500 residents of previously unknown ethnicity and language, in the 13th century a very important center for ceramic handicrafts and copper processing|
|Location:||Paquimé near Nuevo Casas Grandes, southwest of Ciudad Juárez|
|Meaning:||an important link between the pueblo culture of the southwestern United States and the advanced cultures of Central America|
|700-900||first permanent settlement|
|900-950||first intensive trade in ceramic goods|
|950-1060||Use of shells as a decorative element to indicate relationships with the settlement area in the Gulf of California|
|1060-1205||Construction of a planned city|
|1340||fire destroying the city|
The ceramic artists from the desert
After the Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés and his army conquered the Aztec empire in 1519, the Spanish fell into immeasurable gold treasures. This only spurred their greed even more, so that again and again newly formed expedition armies were sent out, always with the task of discovering even more riches. So the Spaniards came to Paquimé in 1565, at that time already an abandoned city where wind and precipitation had left their destructive traces. There was no gold and the residents had long since disappeared. The Spaniards therefore passed by quite unimpressed and literally left the settlement behind. It wasn’t until a good five centuries later that archaeologists systematically investigated the site and discovered astonishing things.
Due to the drought, barren desert land stretched in northern Mexico. And there, of all places, the so-called Chichimeks settled, a collective name for various ethnic groups who, despite adverse circumstances, had settled in the desert-like regions. Wedged between two mountain ranges of the Sierra Madre, the first residents of Paquimé founded a small settlement in the valley of Casas Grandes and in the 8th century built the first solid houses from rammed earth. This early settlement was quite modest. Researchers speak of a good ten houses grouped around a kind of community house. All the buildings were round and slightly indented in the ground. In later decades the settlement grew and new houses were built. The layout of the settlement gradually changed: The rows of houses were now erected according to plan, they were built on level ground in a rectangular shape, the walls butt against one another like in row houses. Ceramic finds suggest that the residents now had trade contacts with the then residents of what is now the southwestern United States and the Gulf of California.
In the 11th century trade relationships with the tribes in the south developed, especially with the Toltecs. In this way, new agricultural techniques reached the arid northern regions, but new religious and social influences also spread. The water supply was improved by building canals and a ball playground was also built. The ceremony of playing ball was particularly widespread among the Maya. The residents of Paquimé also achieved a remarkable skill in pottery making. So vases and pots were found, painted with beautiful, multicolored geometric patterns. Others were ornately decorated with human or animal symbols. And ceramics were their most important commodity. Above all, bracelets, rings or shapes based on small animals were made. According to hyperrestaurant, Paquimé had become an important center in the north of what is now Mexico by the 14th century, and the people had now adapted perfectly to the adverse environment. Then in 1340 a disaster happened: the city, which had about 3500 residents, fell victim to the flames. The exact cause of the accident has remained unknown to this day; some researchers claim to have identified an enemy attack, perhaps even from Apaches. Hundreds of people died, countless houses were destroyed. The survivors moved away and left the city to its own devices. Wooden ceilings and fragile objects gradually weathered, the ravages of time gnawed inexorably. The walls, built from tamped clay, on the other hand, lasted six centuries and are still evidence of the splendor of the past.
Paquimé was once a living, bustling and man-made city, not a place for the gods as in many cultures further south. Its residents possessed artistic skills and the knowledge of a life in desert-like landscapes. But these were suddenly lost with the devastating fire, and when the Spaniards passed by at the beginning of the 16th century, they believed they were only seeing a few completely uninteresting mud walls.