John Pohl, THE CODICES John Pohl's


CHOLULA  (circa A.D. 100-1521)

Cholula is not only the oldest continuously occupied ceremonial center in the western hemisphere, but in some respects, one of the most enigmatic. The Acropolis, even larger than Teotihuacán’s Pyramid of the Sun, is a confounding mass of Preclassic to Early PostClassic brick and masonry that defies conventional stratigraphic excavation, while a Late PostClassic city is buried beneath the ever expanding urban growth of the modern community. A succession of excavations have determined relative dates for the major building episodes of the main acropolis. Ethnohistorical studies combined with an urban archaeological survey have confirmed the location of the PostClassic central precinct, including the great temple of Quetzalcoatl. It appears that Cholula evolved from a small village into a regional center during the Late Classic between A.D. 600 and 700. Then between 750 and 950, the town underwent explosive growth as its Olmeca-Xicalanca lords exploited a power vacuum created by their fallen rival, Teotihuacán. The Acropolis thrived along with its Late Classic contemporaries Cacaxtla, Xochicalco, and El Tajín until a new ceremonial center was constructed under the direction of Tolteca-Chichimeca peoples who moved into the region from Tula around A.D. 1100. Cholula then became, in the words of one Spanish chronicler, a New World Mecca, the largest pilgrimage center in highland Mesoamerica and the nucleus of a Nahua commercial exchange network that extended from the Basin of México to El Salvador.

Image - Cholula Acropolis

Estimates of the base size of the acropolis range between 300 to 400 meters on a side and over 65 meters in height. The exposed slopes of the pyramid are earth and adobe fill - representing the last construction phase between A.D. 750 and 950. Either the building was never finished or, more likely, the earlier constructions were intentionally buried and the exterior was transformed into a man-made sacred mountain or “alteptl” covered with orchards of fruit trees in landscape garden fashion. A lower acropolis of staircases and plazas was then erected as a symbolic artifice to frame the bucolic setting. It even included a spring of water that flowed into a marsh on the mountain’s eastern side. Click on Image for more detail.

Image - The church of San Miguel

Between A.D. 1150 and 1500, Cholula became the predominate economic and political center in the central highlands. Its authority was derived from the cult of Quetzalcoatl, in whose name two priests entitled the nobility of all Toltec kingdoms by conferring them with the title Tecuhtli or “Lineage Head.” The rituals were carried out at a central ceremonial precinct now buried beneath the church of San Miguel in the center of the city. Click on Image for more detail.

Image - Primary trade arteries

Primary trade arteries and alliance corridors linked PostClassic confederations of Tolteca-Chichimeca kingdoms with Cholula and southern Mesoamerica. Click on Image for more detail.

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