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The Ruins of Xochicalco, Mexico

Updated on January 20, 2013

Xochicalco ruins in Morelos, Mexico.

Xochicalco | Source

Xochicalco from Nahuatl: “place of the house of flowers.¨

Xochicalco is a prehispanic archeological site situated in between the municipalities of Temixco and Miacatlan in the Mexican state of Morelos. The name of this archeological site is derived from Nahuatl and means: “place of the house of flowers.” The architecture of Xochicalco resembles that of the Teotihuacan and Mayan cultures. The city of Xochicalco is built on a series of artificial terraces supported by contention barriers, and standing 130 meters (326 ft.) over the surrounding landscape, turning it into a pyramid of great dimensions.

Xochicalco was founded around 650 AD by the Olmecs. At the peak of its development, the site had a population of between 15-20 thousand people, whose principal activities included craft drafting and commerce. Xochicalco is a strategically urban center built over a series of artificial terraces on the slopes of a hill, whose location in addition to contention barriers is thought to have served as protection from possible attacks. It is believed that Xochicalco flourished during 250 years, during which the majority of architecture was built. Most of Xochicalco’s architecture show closely related resemblances to the architecture of Mayan, Teotihuacan and Matlatzinca cultures. It is thought that Xochicalco may have influenced the fall of Teotihuacan.

Xochicalco Museum

Xochicalco  Museum
Xochicalco Museum | Source

Temple of the Feathered Serpent

Pyramid of the Serpent
Pyramid of the Serpent | Source

Environmental Museum

Xochicalco’s museum was designed as an ecological museum, lacking electricity, water and drainage. The electricity used is from solar origin (photovoltaic), and the exhibits are lighted by well distributed zenital domes with mirrors, which direct light where it is required. The interior temperature is controlled by double walls in which an intermediate space permits the circulation of fresh air, which when heated exits through a double ceiling and out into the atmosphere through the high towers. The museum exhibits more than 600 archeological pieces excavated during the last century. The most important piece is the Lord of Xochicalco.

Xochicalco is distributed hierarchically. At the top of this archeological site is the acropolis, which the leaders of Xochicalco used as their residence. At the main plaza are the most important structures of the site, including the pyramid of the feathered serpent, structure of enormous beauty and significance, with carved depictions of that deity and other sculpted figures in each of its four sides with apparent influences of Teotihuacan and Mayan art. This has originated the belief that Xochicalco may have had among their people artists from different regions of Mesoamerica. There are also some free-standing sculptured figures, where three Quetzalcoatl related descriptions were discovered and can be seen at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

Mesoamerican Ballgame

Ball Game
Ball Game | Source

8 Meter Observable Conduit

Observatory | Source

Xochicalco Ballgame

On the east side, on another slope of the site, is the primary ball court, where the natives of Xochicalco used to participate in ball games. There is also the ramp of the animals represented by 255 slabs depicting various animals. A polychromated altar is located in the central area, along with a series of sauna baths, and the water storage system in which rainwater was collected and distributed throughout the whole site by means of a well developed drainage system.

Astronomical Observatory at Xochicalco

The great number of caves found on the slopes of Xochicalco were dug out to obtain building materials; many of them were equipped to be utilized with distinct purposes, including an observatory from where the sun’s displacement was studied to record the beginnings of the agricultural cycle. The observatory consists of a big chamber and an observable conduit of a little more than 8 meters (26 ft.) in length. During 105 days, from April 30th to August 15th, the sunlight enters the cave, and from May 14/15 and July 28/29, the sun is at its zenith, allowing the image of the sun to be reflected on the floor of the cave. It is believed that this phenomenon was used in the religious ceremonies among the Xochicalco civilization.

The decrease of the political and economical influence of the Teotihuacan cities in the seventh and eight centuries marked the end of the Mesoamerican Classic period. It also marked the fall of other prehispanic civilizations, resulting in a significant reduction of their populations or even total abandonment.


Xochicalco is worldwide renown and is visited every summer when the sunlight enters the cave creating a mysterious atmosphere.

Xochicalco reached its peak between 650 and 900 AD, just between the fall of Teotihuacan and the rise of Tula.

Xochicalco has been classified as a world heritage archeological site by UNESCO.

Xochicalco is located 35 minutes south of the city of Cuernavaca, and around 70 minutes south of Mexico City

A markerXochicalco -
Xochicalco, MOR, México
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