Xochicalco




Xochicalco

Site Information

Country: Mexico
State: Municipalities of Temixco and Miacatlan
Location: 18° 48' 13" N - 99° 17' 41" W
Field Documentation Date(s): May 14th, 2012
Project Release Date(s): July 9th, 2014
Time Range: 650 CE - 900 CE
Era: Epiclassic Period
Culture: Epiclassic Mesoamerican, mix from Central Highlands, Gulf Coast, and Mayan
Site Authority: INAH
Heritage Listing: UNESCO World Heritage Site
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Plaza de la Estela de los Dos Glifos Point Cloud

Site Description

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This fortified city was founded on several 200-meter hillocks that overlook a surrounding valley. Xochicalco enjoyed strong links with other centers of the time, maintaining complete control over the region that provided it with food, manual labor, and raw materials for building. Great constructions, such as highways, ramparts, terraces, housing developments, temples and patios, and roads that connected Xochicalco with other towns were initiated within a preconceived urban plan. These landscape modifications create a city of terraces, platforms, and open spaces. This segregation of space was used for political, religious, and social organization. The outer edge of the city, near the lower residential areas, was surrounded by moated walls.



The archaeological site is located in the southeastern part of the State of Morelos, 36 kilometers (26 miles) from the city of Cuernavaca, Mexico.
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History

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Xochicalco in the Nahuatl language means "place of the house with flowers". It developed between 700 and 900 CE. when Teotihuacan had ceased to be Mesoamerica´s economic and political leader, and a power vacuum had been created.



This fortified city was founded on several 200-meter hillocks that overlook a surrounding valley. Xochicalco enjoyed strong links with other centers of the time, maintaining complete control over the region that provided it with food, manual labor, and raw materials for building. Great constructions, such as highways, ramparts, terraces, housing developments, temples and patios, and roads that connected Xochicalco with other towns were initiated within a preconceived urban plan.



The dominant political group’s role in society was based on several social duties: it organized collective, defense and attack works; it managed production for trade; distributed consumer and prestige goods; and created a bureaucratic apparatus. This group remained in power as long as it did its work efficiently. It is suspected, although not confirmed, that the ruling class was overthrown. Around 900 CE, Xochicalco was burned and destroyed with archaeological evidence suggesting the city was destroyed and abandoned quickly, possibly the result of an uprising as little evidence exists for external siege or war. The site was eventually recolonized around 1200 CE by the Nahuatl-speaking Tlahuica people, who gave it its current name.
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Perspective of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent

Project Narrative

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In May 2012 CyArk and partners Systop and Nolte de Mexico spent one week collaborating with INAH at the Mesoamerican Epiclassic city of Xochicalco. The efforts were to digitally preserve key structures undergoing or soon to undergo conservation efforts. Notably, restoration efforts to remove modern cement from previous works and intervention planning for conservation. The two scanning teams worked with two Leica 3D laser scanning machines (a ScanStation and HDS6100) to provide 3D data from three locations: (1) the Main Square with a detailed focus on the exterior facades and glyphs of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent; (2) the Plaza de la Estela de los Dos Glifos with a detailed focus on the stela, its altar, and the two flanking temple structures to the east and west; (3) the South Ballcourt. Additionally, GPS information was used to geolocate the data and high resolution HDR panoramic photography was captured of the site to provide photographic texture information to the 3D data. Systop had previously documented the Temple of the Feathered Serpent as well as other structures on site; this previous data set will be combined with the new data to create a wider scope of coverage for the site as well as increase the resolution and accuracy of the Temple. Additionally, a combination of photogrammetry and 3D laser scanning was used to document several significant artifacts within the museum.



This project was the official launch of efforts between CyArk and INAH to digitally preserve 11 ancient cities in Mexico for a multi-year collaboration called the “Sacred Cities of Ancient Mexico”. In the long-term, the data will be added to, eventually encompassing the entire exposed city ruins. It will additionally be used beyond the site’s current conservation work for tourism and educational outreach to the wider public.
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Perspective of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent

Preservation

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Currently many of the structures at Xochicalco are undergoing modern conservation efforts where cement, used in decades past for reconstruction, is being removed and replaced with traditional construction materials.
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Area Descriptions

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Acropolis
East Ballcourt
Main Plaza
Stele Pyramid
Temple of the Feathered Serpent
Twin Pyramid
North ballcourt
Observatory
Plaza de la Estela de los Dos Glifos
Gran Pirámide
La Estela de los Dos Glifos
Rampa de los Animales
Room of Polychrome Altar
South ballcourt
West Complex

Acropolis

Acropolis Description:

The Acropolis is an architectural complex located in the highest part of the city just west of the main square. It’s platform rests 6m above the square and its entrance was marked by a stairway that led to a plaza, after crossing an arcade. On both sides of the esplanade there are large rooms; in front, an altar placed on the stairway prevents direct access to the most important building, which used to two stories. Several architectural complexes on a lower level are found to the west. The northwest complex was undoubtedly a residential building, as it has remnants of a temazcal (or steam bath), four grain lofts, and food-related materials.


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East Ballcourt

East Ballcourt Description:

The playing field has the general construction of other Mesoamerican ballcourts and its uniqueness lies in the fact that it had only one ring, beautifully sculpted in bas-relief, with a bat, two macaws, and day and night symbols. This piece is now in the Xochicalco Museum and was one of the museum artifacts documented in May 2012.


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Main Plaza

Main Plaza Description:

The Main Plaza rests on a large artificially created mound with highly controlled access; entrance is only possible through two defended porticoes. In this zone lie the buildings that must have housed government offices, where the ruling class and high officials lived and decided the destiny of this great city. The Acropolis, the Feathered Serpent Pyramid, the Twin Pyramid, the Stele Pyramid, the Central Altar, and buildings G3 to G7 are all found here. To the center resides the Temple of the Feathered Serpent and the Twin Pyramid. To its southern end is the Pyramid of the Stele of the Two Glyphs, while the Acropolis resides to the west atop another elevated platform.


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Stele Pyramid

Stele Pyramid Description:

The Stele Pyramid is a foundation located at the Main Plaza’s extreme southern end. It has a stairway that leads to a patio surrounded by rooms. There is another small foundation, with its temple in front, with three stela events carved on them. This building was likely the residence of a high administrative official as it is one of the most elaborate in Xochicalco. On a level lower than that of the main plaza and at the opposite end of the stairway, are three complexes called the West, Center, and East Complexes.


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Temple of the Feathered Serpent

Temple of the Feathered Serpent Description:

This is the most beautiful, famous and impressive construction in Xochicalco. The foundation comprises a slope that doubles as a panel and beveled cornice. Its name comes from the eight enormous serpents decorating the slopes. The importance of this construction is derived from the fact that it was a commemorative temple. The Date celebrated was “9 Reptile Eye”, when priests from different allied towns gathered in Xochicalco to observe a solar eclipse (743 CE), by which they adjusted the calendar. There are a series of personages on the paneling and in front of them can be seen the place-name from which they came. These figures likely represent priests, rulers, or astronomers. There are too many fragmented pieces missing from the upper part of the pyramid, making it is impossible to interpret the complete message, but some of figures here have been interpreted as warriors

In 1909, Don Leopoldo Batres reconstructed the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent and left it as you see it today. In 1993 all of the fill from the base was removed and the first temple was found along with its addition, which is what is seen today.


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Twin Pyramid

Twin Pyramid Description:

The remains of the foundation have the same dimensions as the Feathered Serpent’s. Its form was probably the same, and there was a two-room temple at the top. Wall fragments contain part of a mural. This construction was likely built during a later period, such as with Structure G7.


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North ballcourt

North ballcourt Description:

In its general construction, this court is different from most buildings at Xochicalco as it has large, inclined ornaments and lacks the sidewalks characteristic of the other playing fields, although it retains the capital “I” form of ballcourts and the two stone rings used as hoops for the ball. Its 9m high walls also act as one of the sites retaining walls.


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Observatory

Observatory Description:

This is an artificial cave used as a solar observatory; originally mined for building materials for the city’s core complexes. It has an inner passageway and a chamber with a shaft or chimney with a hexagonal entrance. The sun’s journey to the Tropic of Cancer on May 14 or 15, and its return trip on July 28 or 29 can be observed here annually.


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Plaza de la Estela de los Dos Glifos

Plaza de la Estela de los Dos Glifos Description:

This was the most important civil-religious space, and most people that entered the city would come here to witness ceremonies and rites, which were likely in honor of the god Tlaloc, Xochicalco’s primary deity. Standing In the plaza center is the Temple of the Stele of the Two-Glyphs, after which the plaza is named. The stele is a great rectangular standing slab with the following date engraved: year “10 Cane” day “9 Reptile Eye”. The date must have been very important, indicating a critical moment in the Xochicalcan people’s lives. (The original stele is in the Xochicalco museum with a replica in standing today in the plaza). Two porticoes at the entrance, buildings C (east), D (west), and the northeast structures are built on a single foundation with their temples in the upper part. To the north of the plaza is the Great Pyramid, or Structure E. This is Xochicalco’s largest and most important structure. It comprises a platform with three levels, on top of which there is another foundation with four levels, where the vestiges of a substructure can be seen. On top of this last structure there was once an adobe temple.


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Gran Pirámide

Gran Pirámide Description:

To the north of the plaza is the Great Pyramid, or Structure E. This is Xochicalco’s largest and most important structure. It comprises a platform with three levels, on top of which there is another foundation with four levels, where the vestiges of a substructure can be seen. On top of this last structure there was once an adobe temple. These ancient remains share a similar style to the Teotihuacan base structures: the front and half of the sides have layers of "talud y tablero" (slope and panel), while the other back half of the sides and the back of the pyramid show only a great "talud" (slope).


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La Estela de los Dos Glifos

La Estela de los Dos Glifos Description:

The stele is a great rectangular standing slab with the following date engraved: year “10 Cane” day “9 Reptile Eye”. The date must have been very important, indicating a critical moment in the Xochicalcan people’s lives. (The original stele is in the Xochicalco museum with a replica in standing today in the plaza).


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Rampa de los Animales

Rampa de los Animales Description:

Between the third unit and the Sunken Garden of the East Complex is the Animal Ramp. The ramp’s floor tiles are sculpted with different zoomorphic motifs (including birds, reptiles, insects, and mammals) and is the only ramp decorated yet-discovered at Xochicalco. The Rampa is 15m by 6m.


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Room of Polychrome Altar

Room of Polychrome Altar Description:

On the terrace north of the Main Square, one of the excavated rooms contains an altar or bench that is polychromatically painted. Today some of the more visible paint is blue outlines along tablero of the altar. This structure indicates that the site's buildings, temples, and furnishings may have been brightly painted during occupation.


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South ballcourt

South ballcourt Description:

The South Ballcourt is shaped like a capital "I" with wide, inclined sidewalks and rings (hoops for scoring with the rubber ball) marking midfield. A large, solid, rubber ball hit with the hips was used for gameplay. The field itself represented the universe and the ball the stars that are constantly moving. Opponents confronted each other, such as day and night, life and death, good and evil, symbolizing their eternal struggle. Thus, the ritual game took on great importance. This structure was researched in 1941.


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West Complex

West Complex Description:

The west complex is located on a great platform base with a temple and two large rooms. Between these buildings is the Observatory’s chimney curbstone. Beneath the complex base, within the hill, are the Observatory tunnels.


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Credits:

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CyArk
     - Justin Barton
            Technical Services Manager

     - Elizabeth Lee
            Director of Projects and Development

     - Alejandrina Bautista
            Ingeniería and Gerente de Operaciones

     - Adriana Ramirez
            Ingeniería and Soporte Técnico

     - Ruben Alvarez
            Senior Surveyor

     - Cesar Nevarez
            Surveyor Manager