The archaeological zone of Teopanzolco

In the city of Cuernavaca, capital of the state of Morelos, in Mexico, is the archaeological zone of Teopanzolco. Next to it, a cultural center of the same name has been built to enhance this part of the city.

Although the ceremonial center and part of the residential area are preserved, very little is known about the total extension of the city, since most of the remains are probably under the constructions of the current city.

The buildings of the archaeological zone of Teopanzolco

Name Teopanzolco It is of Nahuatl origin and is composed of Theopan, which means ‘temple’; Zolly, which means ‘old’; Y co, indicating a place. That’s why, the word Teopanzolco it means ‘in the old temple’.

The visitor can contemplate a main building that has a large rectangular basement, in which 2 stages of construction can be seen one on top of the other, a very typical fact of that time. On the west side of the façade, we find double staircases that give access to 2 temples. In front of this building, there is a wide rectangular plaza.

In that place, in front of building 1, is building 2, which has a low platform, with an irregular floor plan and a large staircase in the north area. Buildings 3 and 5 have a quadrangular basement with stairs. There are a total of 14 buildings.

The temples of Teopanzolco

The north temple is dedicated to Tlaloc, who was the god of Celestial Water and Fertility.. It is the smallest temple and has 4 pilasters at the ends. The southern temple is consecrated to Huitzilopochtli, who embodies the God of the Sun and the God of War. This is larger in size and is divided into 2 sections.

This pyramidal structure was created surrounded by several platforms, one of which was rectangular in front and circular in back. In addition, it was oriented towards the east, so it could be a place dedicated to TlahizcalpantecuhtliVenus or Morning Star.

Also, in the back of the temples dedicated to Tlaloc Already Hitzilopochtli a smaller one was built dedicated to the god Tezcatlipoca, which means ‘smoking mirror’. He corresponds to an omnipresent and omnipotent god of the mysteries of the night.

The other pyramidal structures that surround the larger pyramid also had altars for other lesser gods, and in some they have been found graves for the deposit of the mortuary remains of the sacrificed men. During the excavations, a large set of human bone remains were found in this area along with obsidian blades, perhaps from some ritual.

The history of Teopanzolco

The first evidence of occupation of the archaeological zone of Teopanzolco dates back to the Middle Postclassic. However, very few remains have remained from this period, since it has been practically destroyed.

On top of those first ruins, the new buildings were built, from the Late Postclassic period. It was normal among pre-Hispanic cultures to build some cities on top of others.

The earthquake that devastated Mexico in 2017 left evidence of the oldest buildings in Teopanzolco. As a result of this earthquake, part of the central area of ​​the pyramid sank and a structure was found in the lower area corresponding to the Middle Postclassic period (1150-1200 AD). Remains of stucco-covered walls, a bench and remains of a pilaster were found.

Constructive form of the archaeological zone of Teopanzolco

The rock used in most of the constructions of the archaeological zone of Teopanzolco is the basaltic rock. The stones that form the corners and part of the buildings appear worked with carvings in the stone itself.

In the exterior area of ​​the buildings, that is, the area with stucco and paint, absolutely nothing is preserved. Beyond that, it is assumed that they should have been painted, as is the case in many other Mexican archaeological sites.

Teopanzolco Cultural Center

Next to the archaeological zone of Teopanzolco, built more than 700 years ago, a cultural center has been built where you can enjoy the views of the archaeological zone. The stairways and platforms present in all Mexican archaeological remains have also been designed in this new cultural center. Here they provide a link between the old world and the new world, between Aztec architecture and contemporary architecture.

In the cultural center there is a stairway that has multiple uses. It works as an open-air auditorium, as a viewpoint for the city and also to contemplate the archaeological site. From its sloping roof, it stands out that it has a vestibule at the entrance.

Although many experts in the dissemination of Heritage do not see with good eyes the construction of these great monumental buildings next to archaeological sites, time has proven their designers right, since in most cases they have managed to combine the past and the Present.

The union of two different visions of the same place makes the visitor enjoy while understanding the archaeological sites, like this one in Teopanzolco, thanks to these buildings that are complementary to the sites.

If we have to give them a “but”, it would be that in these places theater plays and concerts are held, but there is no recreation area or explanation of the archaeological zone. So the spectacular views that the cultural center of the archaeological zone gives us remain empty of interpretation.

Teopanzolco, a prestigious place to meet

This Teopanzolco Cultural Center has been awarded several architecture awards, including the Oscar Niemeyer Award for Latin American Architecture in 2018 and the American Architecture Prize in 2017.

In short, with a 2-hour ride from Mexico City, It is well worth knowing this archaeological zone of Teopanzolco. As we explained before, in it you will be able to know a part of what the town of Cuernavaca was more than 7 centuries ago.

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