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Pre-Hispanic City of Cantona

Date of Submission: 20/11/2001
Criteria: (iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
INAH/CONALMEX Puebla 95, Colonia Roma 06700 Mexico E-mail: direccion.pmundial@inah.gob.mx
Coordinates: 19°32'15" N - 97°28'15" W
Ref.: 1586
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Cantona was a great fortified city, built around the year 50 A.D. over "bad land", a Pleistocene basaltic outcrop. Due to some of its features, Cantona is unique in its kind. For example, no mortar or cement was used in its buildings, and it has a sophisticated road network, in which streets were laid out over or carved out of the volcanic rock. Cantona's inhabitants lived in nearly 8000 residential units surrounded by walls. The city has a large public-religious centre covering nearly 90 hectares, along with minor centres scattered throughout the city, as in quarters. The site has 24 known ball courts, the largest number ever recorded in any site in ancient Mexico. Half of these are lined-up architectural groups that include a pyramid, one or two main plazas and the ball court along with countless closed courts which have at least one pyramid on one of its sides. Access to the largest public-religious centre, located in the Acropolis, was through nine controlled entrances. Alongside these gateways, there are several other structures in Cantona of clear military nature, such as relay stations and blockhouses, retaining walls in the terraces covering lava outcrops, a pit located in the south-west end of the city, and hundreds or thousands of surrounding walls in the residential units. These features make Cantona a completely fortified city. Roads crossing the "bad land" start off from Cantona's city limits heading east, north and south, along with roads leading to contemporary settlements. Cantona reached its zenith between 550 and 950 A.D., spreading over 1,300 hectares. It's prosperity depended to a great extent on the mining and trade of obsidian extracted from the Oyameles and Zaragoza deposits, located only five kilometres from the city. In this sense, it was competing with Teotihuacan, which mined and traded obsidian extracted from the Sierra de las Navajas, in the state of Hidalgo.