Cantona Archaeological Site

Cantona Archaeological Site


Description of Cantona Archaeological Site

Location: 30 km (19 mi) Northeast of Oriental, Puebla   Map

Open: Tue- Sun

Official Site


Cantona is an ancient archaeological site located 30 km (19 mi) Northeast of Oriental in the state of Puebla in Mexico. Only small fraction of the site is open to the public due to ongoing research and archaeological digs that continue, but whatever still impresses with its magnitude and size. Cantona Archaeological Site reached its peak in the Late Classic period between 600 AD and 1000 AD and was probably inhabited by the Olmec-Xicalanca group of tribes. Cantona was abandoned in the late 11th century. Although there is speculations on what exactly happened to the city this Mayan city probably fell in a face of massive crop failures and subsequent famines. Unlike many other sites in Mexico the structures of Cantona were not overtaken by jungles and little looting was done on the site due to its remote location. So even today this ancient city presents us with new information about the people who once lived here.


Henri de Saussure claimed to have discovered Cantona in 1855 after a lengthy and prolonged search, Nicolás León, based on a Saussure publication, visited the zone in the early 1900s and explored the site, he left a full and comprehensive description of structures and surface objects at that time. Cantona is derived from the Nahuatl word Caltonal which means "House of the Sun".

In 1938, Paul Gendrop mentions that Cantona occupies an area of almost 20 km long by 12 kilometers wide. As far the site architectonic elements distribution, he noted that it is formed by numerous rectangular rooms 20 to 30 meters long by 12 to 20 meters wide, delimited by thick stone walls, fairly straight and well preserved.

Eduardo Noguera, in 1958, after a tentative study of ceramics and constructive systems, noted that Cantona occupies only half the size of what was previously calculated by Paul Gendrop and locates it, chronologically in the preclassical horizon (200 to 100 BC), coinciding with data available then.

In 1980 archaeologist Diana Lopez de Molina, based on aerial photographs, made a sketch of the settlement and dug some stratigraphic wells that allowed her to propose a tentative timeline to the occupation of the area. Previous studies allow the assumption that this prehispanic city submitted was occupied from the late preclassical horizon (200 BC) to the early classic (0 to 200 AD), which makes it one of the oldest cities of the country.

According to investigation, Cantona would be chronologically situated between 600 and 1000 AD; its splendor coincides with the fall of the main cities of the classical horizon (it is even thought it had something to do with the Teotihuacan fall, by obstructing passage of products from the coast to the Highlands) and with the arrival of warrior people who soon seized and dominated the region.