Featured Sites: Cuicuilco


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Tripart: 2006.017.685

Country: Mexico

Archaeological Site: Cuicuilco

Title: Cuicuilco

Culture: Unknown

Date of Photograph: 1970

Photographer: Dr. Brian Hayden

Time Period: Late Preclassic

Location: Mexico; Federal District

Subject: Site

Cuicuilco is a Preclassic site located on the shores of ancient Lake Texcoco in the Valley of Mexico. When the nearby Xitle volcano erupted some time between AD 100 and 400, Cuicuilco was buried in ash fall and lava up to 10 m deep in places. This thick layer of volcanic rock has greatly inhibited archaeological work on the site and only the great circular pyramid has been well documented. Standing at 23 m tall and 118 m in diameter, it is the earliest and one of the largest pyramids in the Valley of Mexico.Cuicuilco's economy was based on trade and agriculture, and by 100 BC these activities were supporting a population of about 20,000 people. Figurines and stelae from Cuicuilco indicate that the inhabitants worshiped the fire god, which is not surprising since the Xitle volcano was likely active during Cuicuilco's occupation, sporadically rumbling and blowing smoke. Cuicuilco later became a pilgrimage centre for the refugees and their descendants who came to see the city that the volcano had destroyed.