Pyramid at Cuicuilco

The Valley of Mexico has long attracted people. Its land is literally packed with monuments of various eras. One of these was the round pyramid at Cuicuilco.

The Valley of Mexico has long attracted people. Its land is literally packed with monuments of various eras. One of these was the round pyramid at Cuicuilco

Approximately 25-20 thousand years ago, the valley of Mexico City was developed by primitive mammoth hunters. Later, this valley became the birthplace of three successively successive ancient civilizations of Mexico - Teotihuacan (1st millennium AD), Toltec (X-XIII centuries) and Aztec (XIII-XVI centuries). And every nation, every culture left behind the ruins of cities, villages and burial grounds. This is what created additional difficulties for researchers trying to penetrate into the distant past of pre-Columbian America. In addition, the written history of the Indian peoples of Mexico did not go deeper than the 10th century AD.

From the ancient chronicles, only the Aztecs and Toltecs were known to the first researchers of the antiquities of the Valley of Mexico. All the discovered antiquities were originally attributed to them. But everything changed when, in 1907, the American archaeologist Celia Nuttal purchased from workers in the vicinity of Mexico City rough clay figurines of naked women, 5-10 centimeters high, with their hands raised high.

The fact that the figurines were found under a layer of petrified lava testified to their very respectable age. Interested in this, the Mexican archaeologist Manuel Gamio began excavations in 1910 in a lava field. The results exceeded all expectations. Remains of ancient buildings and tombs were found under a layer of lava 6-8 m thick. According to the depth of occurrence of the finds, archaeologists have established that in time they are much older than both the Toltec and Aztec civilizations. Thus, a new era in the history of pre-Columbian Mexico was opened.

In 1922, the American archaeologist Byron Cammings began researching this unknown culture. His attention was drawn to a lonely, bushy hill a few miles south of Mexico City. The locals called him Cuicuilco. The slopes of the hill were covered with a thick layer of petrified magma.

For nine months, Cammings pounded through this extremely durable "shell" of lava. Gradually, the outlines of a huge stepped pyramid began to emerge more and more clearly from under the lava layer. Moreover, its shape was quite unusual - round! The pyramid at Cuicuilco was a truncated cone of four gradually diminishing tiers. The diameter of its base was about 135 m, the height was 24 m. The structure was based on a mound of clay and sand, roughly lined on the outside with lava blocks, cobblestones and raw bricks. A wide stone staircase led up to a flat platform with a semicircular altar on it. Dozens of tombs radiated out from the pyramid in Cuicuilco: obviously, the graves of the dead were to be located as close as possible to the center of the cult.

But what was her actual age? Only in the 1950s was it possible to establish that the pyramid in Cuicuilco was built at the very end of the 1st millennium BC.

The round pyramid at Cuicuilco is one of the earliest monumental structures in pre-Columbian Mexico, and in this sense it can be placed on a par with the pyramid of Djoser in Egypt. The pyramid at Cuicuilco became the prototype for subsequent Mexican buildings. In addition, it is an indicator of the increased role of religion in the life of society of that era. The fate of this building turned out to be sad: littered with heaps of volcanic ash and flooded with lava flows, the pyramid died as a result of the catastrophic eruption of the nearby Shitli volcano (now extinct). Together with it, a large settlement of ancient farmers that existed around it was destroyed.

After the catastrophe, the population of the southern part of the Valley of Mexico City was forced to hastily leave the inhabited lands and seek salvation. The main stream of settlers rushed north to Teotihuacan. Probably, it was this event that contributed to the formation at the beginning of the 1st millennium A.D. teotihuacan civilization. In any case, the heyday of Teotihuacan began soon after the natural disaster described above.