MAJOR ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES: PreClassic to PostClassic
TZINTZÚNTZAN (circa A.D. 1300-1525)
Throughout the PostClassic period, various West Mexican societies enriched themselves on the vibrant desert and coastal trade that extended from the American Southwest to the Valley of México, Oaxaca, and beyond. Around A.D. 1300, the Tarascans emerged to dominate much of the region. Erecting a capital at Tzintzúntzan along the banks of Lake Patzcuaro, they embarked on a program of military expansion that enabled them to monopolize exchange in such essentials as precious metals, feathers and turquoise and to control a territory of over 45,000 square miles (72,000 square kilometers).
While sharing in the Tolteca-Chichimeca culture of their eastern and southern contemporaries, the Tarascans were also uniquely possessed of South American influences in customs and dress that had resulted from over a millenium of intermittent trade with Ecuadorian peoples. It was through West México that the most sophisticated metallurgical techniques were first introduced from South America, and no one excelled at its production better than the Tarascan coppersmiths who created masterpieces of intricate design. In 1480, the Tarascans had begun to move eastward where they encountered a new foe, the vanguard of a new Aztec state with expansionist ambitions equal to their own. Emboldened by their successes in the region, an Aztec army proceeded far beyond the extent of their supply lines and were set upon by the Tarascans in such numbers that they were totally annihilated. It was later remembered as the greatest single military defeat ever suffered by the Aztec Empire of the Triple Alliance up to the time of the Spanish Conquest.
Tzintzúntzan was constructed on a terraced slope overlooking the northern arm of Lake Patzcuaro where fishing was, and still is, a predominant industry in the region. Tzintzúntzan's main platform was surmounted by five circular structures called yécatas. Each was surmounted by a wooden temple with a thatched roof dedicated to the sun god Curicaueri and his brothers. Click on Image for more detail.
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