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Archaeological Monuments Zone of Xochicalco

Archaeological Monuments Zone of Xochicalco

Xochicalco is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a fortified political, religious and commercial centre from the troubled period of 650–900 that followed the break-up of the great Mesoamerican states such as Teotihuacan, Monte Albán, Palenque and Tikal.

Zone de monuments archéologiques de Xochicalco

Xochicalco est un exemple particulièrement bien préservé d'un centre politique, religieux et commercial fortifié de la période trouble qui va de 650 à 900 et qui suit l'effondrement des grands États méso-américains, tels Teotihuacan, Monte Albán, Palenque et Tikal.

منطقة النصب التاريخية في كغزوشيكالكو

تُعتبر كغزوشيكالكو مثالاً محافَظًا عليه، بشكلٍ خاصٍ على المركز السياسي والديني والتجاري المحصّن من فترة الاضطرابات التي امتدت من العام 650 الى العام 900 والتي تلت انهيار دول ما بين النهرَيْن الاميركية الكبيرة، مثل تيوتيهواكان ومونتي البان وبالنكي وتيكال.

source: UNESCO/ERI



source: UNESCO/ERI

Зона археологических памятников Хочикалько

Хочикалько – это исключительно хорошо сохранившийся пример укрепленного политического, религиозного и торгового центра, относящегося к беспокойному периоду 650-900 гг., последовавшему за распадом великих государств Центральной Америки, таких как Теотиуакан, Монте-Альбан, Паленке и Тикаль.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Zona de monumentos arqueológicos de Xochicalco

Xochicalco es un ejemplo de centro político, religioso y comercial fortificado, característico del turbulento período comprendido entre los años 650 y 900, que siguió al desmoronamiento de los grandes Estados mesoamericanos como Teotihuacán, Monte Albán, Palenque y Tikal. El estado de conservación de sus monumentos es excepcional.

source: UNESCO/ERI


source: NFUAJ

Archeologische monumentenzone van Xochicalco

Xochicalco is gebouwd op een aantal natuurlijke heuvels. Het vormt een uitzonderlijk goed bewaard gebleven voorbeeld van een versterkte nederzetting uit de epiklassieke periode van Midden-Amerika. Het was een politiek, religieus en commercieel centrum tijdens de onrustige periode van 650 tot 900 na Christus, die volgde op het uit elkaar vallen van de grote Meso-Amerikaanse staten Teotihuacán, Monte Albán, Palenque en Tikal. De architectuur en de kunst van Xochicalco zijn een weerspiegeling van de fusie van culturele elementen uit verschillende delen van Midden-Amerika, in een periode waarin de verdeling van vroegere politieke structuren leidde tot intensieve culturele hergroepering.

Source: unesco.nl

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Archaeological Monuments Zone of Xochicalco © Jesse Michael Nix
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The decline of the political and economic primacy of Teotihuacan in the 7th and 8th centuries A.D. marked the end of the Mesoamerican Classic Period and the beginning of an age of some two centuries that saw the fall of other large Classic capitals, such as Monte Alban, Palenque, La Quemada, and Tikal, which had dominated large territories. The result was a reduction of urban populations or even complete abandonment. There was considerable movement of peoples and new relationships were established between different regions such as the Central Highlands, the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, Yucatan, Chiapas, and Guatemala. This period, from ca. 650 to 900 A.D., is known as the Epiclassic Period. New expansionist societies developed and their survival depended upon their success in controlling scarce resources, development of specialized productions, and dominance of commercial routes.

In this period of political instability and commercial competition, the military infrastructure became crucial, and new settlements were founded at easily defensible sites, equipped with ramparts, moats, palisades, bastions, and citadels. Xochicalco is the supreme example of this type of Epiclassic fortified city. It appears to have been the creation of a confederation of settlements in the large region, which is now constituted of the States of Guerrero, México, and western Morelos. A large number of impressive public and religious structures were erected in a very short time, and these show cultural influences from the Central Highlands, the Gulf Coast, and the Maya region.

The city was founded in the second half of the 7th century A.D. on a series of natural hills. The highest of these was the core of the settlement, with many public buildings, but evidence of occupation has also been found on six of the lower hills surrounding it. Substantial engineering work, in the form of terracing and massive retaining walls, creates a series of open spaces that are defined by platforms and pyramidal structures. These are linked by a complex system of staircases, terraces and ramps to create a main north-south communication axis.

There are three distinct levels to be recognized at Xochicalco. The lower part is encircled by walls, pierced by defended entrances; it contains largely residential buildings. Next comes the intermediate level, the so-called 'Market Ensemble', which is the Plaza of the Stele of the Two Glyphs, more residential structures, and the southern ball court, which is the largest at Xochicalco. The latter is reached by a wide causeway, lined by a series of 21 calendar altars, recording the months (and in one case days) of the ceremonial year. Beyond the ball court is a group of structures known as the Palace; residential rooms, kitchens, workshops, and storerooms, along with a temazcal (steam-bath) are ranged around a series of patios.

The highest of the three levels consists of a group of temples and other monumental buildings, probably for use by the ruling class, grouped around the Main Plaza. To the east of the plaza a complex of three structures can be found. The first of these is rectangular in plan and opens onto a patio sunk below the external level; it is accessible only from the roofs of the rooms. The second unit is a large patio closed on three sides by narrow galleries and delimited on the fourth side by three pyramidal platforms. Alongside it is the third element, the east ball court, separated by a monumental ramp paved with stone slabs engraved with images of birds, reptiles, insects and mammals, known as the Ramp of the Animals. The sector to the north of the Main Plaza includes a large rainwater cistern that formed part of a complex water system covering the whole settlement. Beneath this platform the entrance to the caves that were used in the early phases of occupation for quarrying building materials can be found. Later it was modified as an observatory for studying the heavens and for ceremonies. The Main Plaza itself is built on an enormous artificial mound, accessible only through the two defended porticoes. Two pyramidal structures are located in the middle of the plaza. One is the remarkable Pyramid of the Plumed Serpents. The excellent proportions of its sloping base and the projecting panel with a flared cornice give this structure a distinctive appearance. The four facades are sculpted in high relief with representations of enormous plumed serpents, the Quetzalcoatl of Teotihuacan. Their bodies frame seated figures with Maya characteristics, interpreted as priests, rulers, and astronomers. On the projecting panel there are similar seated figures, but less elaborately attired, along with calendar symbols. The cornice is decorated with a ridge of shells. The upper walls of the temple bear figures that have been interpreted as warriors. The Acropolisis built on a 6 m high platform to the west of the Main Plaza. It is formed of a series of buildings laid out on variations of a central patio with lateral rooms. The city was abruptly abandoned after having been sacked in the late 9th century A.D.

Criterion (iii): Xochicalco is an exceptionally well preserved and complete example of a fortified settlement from the Epiclassic Period of Mesoamerica.

Criterion (iv): The architecture and art of Xochicalco represent the fusion of cultural elements from different parts of Mesoamerica, at a period when the breakdown of earlier political structures resulted in intensive cultural regrouping.


All attributes that express the Outstanding Universal Value of the Archaeological Monuments Zone of Xochicalco are duly protected within the boundaries of the inscribed property, an area of 707 hectares, allowing for the highest level of conservation.

The Xochicalco archaeological site is located on hilltops in a region with difficult access. This isolation has contributed greatly to the site's excellent state of conservation and assisted in its effective management until now.


Xochicalco looks back on more than a century of investigation and excavation. From 1992 - 1994 a major campaign, the Xochicalco Archaeological Special Project, was financed by the National Institute for Anthropology and History (INAH). The project involved the conservation and consolidation of both structures excavated earlier and those revealed by current work. A considerable amount of scientific research was carried out in search of appropriate conservation materials and techniques and better drainage of the site. A forestry rehabilitation programme resulted in the planting of much of the site with authentic native flora. In result, the authenticity of Xochicalco may be adjudged to very high. There has been a policy of anastylosis consistent with the precepts of the 1964 Venice Charter in operation for many years. Some of the earlier reconstruction work, notably that of the Pyramid of the Plumed Serpents, dating from the early years of the present century, is somewhat questionable in contemporary terms, but it may be considered to have a historicity of its own.

Protection and management requirements

The 707 hectares of the property, which include the buffer zone, are protected under the provisions of the 1972 Federal Law on Monuments and Archaeological, Artistic and Historic Zones, which lays down strict regulations for the protection and conservation of archaeological sites. Xochicalco was designated an Archaeological Monuments Zone by Federal Decree on 18 February 1994.

Most of the archaeological zone is national property. There are strict controls over any form of development within the zone or in the protected area (which constitutes an adequate buffer zone as defined in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention). Management of the site is the responsibility of the INAH, through its Regional Centre in Morelos. In the case of Xochicalco the INAH works in collaboration with the State of Morelos and the Municipalities of Miacatlan and Temixco. The INAH has been developing protection and management criteria in collaboration with other authorities for Xochicalco since 1978. The 1980 Miacatlan Urban Development Plan defined the buffer zone through which urban use was prohibited; this prevented the construction of a tourist facility, proposed by State and Federal agencies in the early 1980s. In 1982 the Ministry of Public Works (SAHOP) and the General Directorate for Organization and Works at National Parks for Public Recreation prepared the Park Protection Plan for the Xochicalco Archaeological Zone, which prescribed development proposals relating to the protection and operation of the zone and criteria for its management. The 1995 Morelos State and Municipal Urban Development Programme established regulations to control unauthorized settlement in ecological protection areas, of which the Xochicalco Archaeological Zone is one. The INAH Morelos Regional Centre has a general management plan for the efficient protection and management of the site.