Paquimé Archaeological Site (Casas Grandes)

Casas Grandes adobe archeological site

Location: Chihuahua Map

Open: daily


Description of Paquime or Casas Grandes Archaeological Site

Paquimé (often also referred to as Casas Grandes) is an archaeological site located about 350 km northwest of the capital Chihuahua of the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, and half a kilometer away from the city of Casas Grandes. Only a part of the old settlement has been excavated and (cautiously) restored. The visitor center houses the small Museum of the Cultures of the North.

On March 30, 2015, the memorial was included in the International Register of Cultural Property under Special Protection of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in Armed Conflicts.



Paquimé was a pre-Hispanic settlement that influenced the northwest of the Sierra Madre Occidental, most of the west of Chihuahua and some areas in the east of Sonora. For its part, Paquimé is in the great cultural context of the archaeological cultures of Mogollon and (a little further away) of Anasazi, which existed in Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico and are summarized under the name Pueblo culture.

The site is known for its large Adobe and Tapia buildings. They form extensive complexes of adjoining rooms, which in all aspects resemble the large houses of the late Mogollon and Anasazi culture and their T-shaped doors. Researchers have calculated that the place had about 3500 inhabitants, but their linguistic and ethnic assignment remains unknown. To the west of the place there are a number of buildings made of stones and filling, which were probably covered with lime paint; these were the ceremonial centers. The large building complex to the east frames a long rectangular square, which is interpreted as a market. Great importance was given to the irrigation system. Brick channels run through the free areas, but also through building complexes, which open into shallow, bowl-shaped water reservoirs. A ritual function is attributed to various low artificial mounds. A clear relationship with Mesoamerica is evidenced by the ball playgrounds, which, however, also occur far into Arizona.

There are some constructions in Paquimé that are not yet known in other sites examined in this way: low mounds apparently took over the function of Mesoamerican pyramids. They also appear in peculiar forms: in the form of a snake or a short-armed cross with four small hills. The latter is interpreted as a symbol for the present world because of the far-fetched similarity with the Mesoamerican calendar sign 4 Olin.

Some researchers believe that Paquimé developed independently from the Salado culture. Others claim that the sudden cultural development at this point was the result of the invasion of an elite from the Mexican plateau or from Mediterranean Mexico. However, Paquimé is not the only large-scale housing estate in this space. Others that have not been excavated so far are located in a similar location in a narrow corridor running to the southwest along the Sierra Madre and seem to indicate a trade route that reached as far as the northwestern outskirts of Mesoamerica (important places: Chalchihuites and La Quemada).

Thus, a trading post was created, which, however, also specialized in the breeding of the macaw birds for their precious feathers, the exchange of shells, ceramics, copper, etc.



Around 700, the Paquimé culture in the region began with the introduction of agriculture and the construction of small adobe houses half-buried in the ground on the banks of the Piedras Verdes, San Pedro and San Miguel rivers, all of which flow into the Casas Grandes River.

Charles Di Peso, a North American archaeologist who studied the area and dug in Paquimé from 1958 to 1961, proposed six phases of the development of the culture - the data are based mainly on the very accurate tree-ring dating, supplemented by radiocarbon dating and obsidian hydration:

I.- Preceramic horizon. Its beginning is unknown and it ends between the 1st and 2nd century.

II.- Period of unadorned ceramics, from about 150 to 700.

III.- Ancient period, from 700 to 1060. The ancient period is divided into a) phase Convento (monastery) until 900, b) the short phase Pilón (grain mortar) until 950, c) phase Perros Bravos until 1060.

IV.- Middle period, from 1060 to 1340. It was divided into a) phase Buena Fe until 1205, b) phase Paquimé until 1261, c) Phase Diablo (devil) until 1340.

V.- Late period. From 1340 to 1660. The period is divided into: a) phase Robles (oaks) until 1519, b) phase of the first sporadic contacts with the Spaniards until 1660.

VI.- Period of the Spaniards. From 1660 to 1821.

During the old period, the first villages were formed and their population practiced rain-field farming, in addition, they used the water draining from the mountains.

During the first two phases of the Old Period, the construction of circular houses begins. The houses were half submerged in the ground (less than 1 m), such dwellings had an area of about 10 m2 and a round door; in the center of the village a communal house was built, which was larger than the family dwellings.

During the last phase of the Old Period, the size of the houses increased; they began to be built abutting each other, and instead of a circular one, they were given a square plan. During this period, decorated ceramics appear, in addition, pieces of shells, necklaces, "cuentecitas" (jewelry beads) made of turquoise and processed copper.

During the middle Period, the social structure and impression of the city changed. During the Buena Fe phase, the houses had only one storey, the doors are T-shaped and the roofs are made of wooden beams.

During the Paquimé phase, the place reaches its highest splendor, trade relations with other peoples intensify, and ceremonial earth mounds are built. The place is crossed by a system of irrigation ditches, a ball playground is being built and the erection of multi-storey houses begins, some buildings reach up to four floors.

During the Diablo phase, the settlement is partially abandoned, the decline is triggered by attacks by hostile peoples. Around 1340 the place succumbs to the enemy siege and many of the inhabitants are killed, this can be concluded from the number of human remains found in grotesque positions.

Objects of art: Jugs of the Casas Grandes culture from the collection of the Museum of Stanford, USA.



After Paquimé was abandoned, nomadic indigenous peoples occupied the area. An incipient desert culture had died.

in 1562, the Spanish explorer Francisco de Ibarra reported that he had visited unexplored areas inhabited by well-dressed indigenous people who lived in Adobe houses, engaged in agriculture, irrigated canals and had food in abundance. in 1566 he returned to the region and reached Paquimé or Casas Grandes, a village inhabited by the Sumas, who did not practice agriculture and lived by hunting and collecting fruits and roots.

Francisco de Ibarra wrote: [The village] is densely built up with magnificent, high and fortified houses, six to seven on top of each other, secured with towers and strong fences like fortresses for protection and defense against the enemies (...) It has large and beautiful courtyards, paved with beautiful, large jasper-like stones, and knife stones supported the large and beautiful columns of thick wood that had been brought from afar; the walls of the buildings were white and colorful tinted and painted, made of very hard stone.

There were wide channels from the river to the villages, with which water was brought to the houses. They have large and wide stoves on the ground floor of houses and buildings, which protect from the cold, which there is a lot there, since it snows much of the year, and the north wind brings a lot of cold from the plains and mountains, where it snows more than usual. There were traces of metals that the natives used to use, as well as millstones.

This large homestead and the cluster of houses are not located in one place, but spread over eight miles downstream (... Most of the houses were dilapidated, damaged and destroyed by the water, they showed the number of years since their owners had abandoned and depopulated them, although there are wild, rustic and run-around people in their vicinity who no longer live in such magnificent houses, but live in mud huts like wild animals, exposed to the sun, wind and cold. They are hunters, eat everything they hunt, as well as wild worms and acorns; running around naked; the women wear loincloths made of deerskin as well as some made of cowhide (from bison).