El Tajin Archaeological Site

El Tajin


Location: 12 km (7 mi) Southeast of Pozarica, Veracruz  Map

Open: 9am- 5pm daily



Description of El Tajin Archaeological Site

El Tajin

El Tajin Archaeological Site is an archaeological site situated 12 km (7 mi) Southeast of Pozarica in the Mexican state of Veracruz. El Tajin Archaeological Site reached the peak of its power between early 9th to the early 13th century. The most famous structure of El Tajin is the Pyramid of the Niches. Its unique architecture and appearance makes it one of the most beautiful and notable such structures in Mesoamerica. The 10 km square site is located near the small cities of Poza Rica and Papantla, located on the Atlantic coast of Mexico, directly east of Mexico City. There is a direct road and the site can be reached by car or by frequent buses.


There is a small charge for entering the grounds. Voladores performances are free but it's always good to aid the performers with a donation.


History of El Tajín

The construction of ceremonial buildings of the Tajín probably began in the first century. In the Early Mesoamerican Classic Period the Tajín showed influence of Teotihuacan as can be seen in urbanism, architecture, painting, sculpture and ceramics. While in the Postclassic it showed Toltec influence. El Tajín was the largest city on the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico and dominated the territory limited by the basins of the Tecolutla and Cazones rivers, between 650 and 950 AD The rulers of this capital extended their hegemony from the Somontano of the Sierra Madre Eastern to the coastal plains of the Gulf, in the current states of Puebla and Veracruz.

Decadence of Tajín
El Tajín prospered until the early years of the 13th century, when it was destroyed by fire, presumably started by an invading force believed to be the Chichimecs. The Totonacs established the nearby settlement of Papantla after the fall of El Tajín. El Tajín was left to the jungle and remained covered and silent for over 500 years. The site was completely depopulated when the Spanish conquerors arrived in the sixteenth century, so it was not destroyed and its existence remained a secret for a couple of centuries. While the city had been completely covered by jungle from its demise until the 19th century, it is unlikely that knowledge of the place was completely lost to the native peoples. Archeological evidence shows that a village existed here at the time the Spanish arrived and the area has always been considered sacred by the Totonacs. However, there are no records by any Europeans about the place prior to the late 18th century.

Archaeological explorations
In 1785 the engineer Diego Ruiz visited the site and made a description of this site when he made an inspection looking for illegal tobacco fields.5 In the 19th century the site was visited by Guillermo Dupaix, Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Nebel, who published their notes on the site. The first archaeologists who arrived at the place in the 20th century included Teobert Maler, Eduard Georg Seler, Francisco del Paso and Troncoso and Herbert Spinden and Ellen. With the discovery of oil in the area roads were built from the 1920s until the 1940s. This allowed for more intensive investigation of the area. In 1935-1938 he was assigned to Agustín García Vega the cleaning and exploration of the area. The first building that was completely free of vegetation of the jungle was the Pyramid of the Niches. The first archaeological research excavation was made by José García Payón from 1943 to 1963. The Mexican Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) did a site restoration from 1989 to 1992.

World Heritage Site
This pre-Columbian city was given the title of World Heritage Site, considering it an exceptional testimony to the greatness of the pre-Columbian cultures of Mexico and an outstanding example of its architecture. On December 14, 1992, the pre-Hispanic site of El Tajín, located in the northern region of the state of Veracruz, was inscribed as a Cultural Property on the Unesco World Heritage List.