Mexico Marks Anniversary of Cacaxtla Murals

Photo: INAH


It has been 45 years since the residents of San Miguel del Milagro, in the central Mexican state of Tlaxcala, first discovered the some of the nation’s oldest pre-Hispanic murals in the archeological site of Cacaxtla.

Shrouded in mystery, the centuries-old ruins in Tlaxcala’s volcanic valley is one of Mexico’s greatest pre-Columbian mysteries, with its extraordinary set of pristinely preserved paintings bearing a yet-to-be-decoded system of glyphs.

Archaeologists are only now beginning to unearth the origins of the narrow passageways, prominent pillars, clay relieves and veiled traces of humanity that just half a century ago ago were still buried underground.

Located just 130 kilometers east of Mexico City and only 19 km southwest of the Tlaxcalan capital, the 1,100-year-old Cacaxtla ruins have become for many a perfect weekend retreat for a mystic adventure

Although 16th-century colonial literature made passing references to the Cacaxtla site, it was a group of residents from the nearby town of San Miguel del Milagro that first called serious attention to the ruins after they found never-before-seen paintings in the September 1975.

Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) soon stepped in, bringing more colorful murals to light and later installing a massive roof to protect the patrimony from the elements.

The Red Temple pictures a god of trade with jaguar claws and a blue mask carrying his cacaxtli, or backpack, full of luxury items such as turtle shells and bird feathers.

The god faces a row of cocoa plants, plus corn stalks whose ears have been replaced with faces of men bearing conical skulls.

The mural is bordered by a continuous flow of water that pictures aquatic animals.

There is also a mural depicting a god of rain who spills thick blue drops of water onto the ground below.

Mexican historians have now determined that Cacaxtla’s epiclassic civilization reached its apogee between 650 and 950 AD, after the original inhabitants of Teotihuacán inexplicably emptied the preclassical city and migrated toward centers such as Cacaxtla and Xochicalco.

Cacaxtla’s last inhabitants, the Olmeca-Xicalanca, eventually diminished in empire and were inevitably conquered around the year 1,100 by the Tolteca Chichimecas, who hailed from Cholula in the state of Puebla.





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