Northern Mexico

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Exploring the Past in Northern Mexico

Archaeology and History Sites in Chihuahua

Cuarenta Casas

The Cuarenta Casas (‘Forty Houses’) are a range of houses and other buildings part built from adobe bricks and part carved into the rockface itself. Archaeologists attribute their inhabitation to members of the Mogollon culture and have found various traces of how these people sustained themselves in this arid environment. Experts have argued that the settlement was important in linking the community at Paquimé with those along the Pacific coast.

Cueva Grande

One of the various cliff settlements found in this part of North America, the Cueva Grande was inhabited roughly between the 13th and mid-16th centuries AD. Its inhabitants were part of what archaeologists call the Mogollón culture. Located not far from the Huápoca settlement, they were linked with the larger town at Paquimé, demonstrated through evidence of trade links between the two

Cueva de la Olla

The Cueva de la Olla, or ‘Cave of the Pot’, is one of the various cliff settlements in this region. Its inhabitants were part of what archaeologists call the Mogollón culture and were linked to the town at Paquimé. The cave takes its name from a large pot-shaped adobe barn in front of the shelter, suggesting the presence of a communal harvesting system for storing food over winter.


A cliff settlement created by members of what archaeologists term the Mogollón culture, Huapoca was inhabited between roughly 1000 and 1450 AD. Much of the structure has been carved out of the rockface, with walls added in adobe brick. The settlement is divided into four parts, which are termed the eagle nest cave, snake cave, viewpoint cave, and the watchtower; these offer beautiful views over the adjacent canyon.


Meaning “Place of Big Houses” in the Opata language, Paquimé was created by one of what archaeologists term the ‘Desert Cultures.’ The settlement reached its apogee in the 14th and 15th centuries AD, and now survives in the form of around 2000 rooms, made largely from adobe. Only part of the extensive settlement has been excavated. Since 1998, it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Archaeology and History Sites in Durango

La Ferrería

La Ferrería emerged around 600 AD, during the Ayala phase. Over the course of the Classic Period, it became the largest settlement in the Guadiana Valley and a major religious center. By the 10th century, the site’s significance was in decline. Among the structures that survive here are pyramids, a ball court, and a range of domestic buildings. Artefacts recovered from the site are displayed at a nearby museum.

Archaeology and History Sites in Nuevo León

Boca de Potrerillos

The thousands of petroglyphs that can be seen at Boca de Potrerillos make this one of Mexico’s premier rock art sites. In addition to these carvings, a smaller number of rock paintings are also visible. Although the precise dating of much of this work is very difficult, archaeologists believe that it was largely produced by hunter-gatherers who depicted many items associated with their semi-nomadic lifestyle on the rockface.

Archaeology and History Sites in Sinaloa

Las Labradas

Las Labradas boasts around 600 petroglyphs carved into volcanic boulders scattered along the coastline, often on the beach. Archaeologists believe that some of the carvings may date from as far back as 3000 BC, although many were produced between 750 and 1250 AD, in the Aztatlán Period. A range of image types are present, including depictions of humanoid and animal forms as well as geometric shapes, spirals, and crosses.

Archaeology and History Sites in Tamaulipas

Balcón de Montezuma

Inhabited largely in the Late Classic Period, the Balcón de Montezuma is a ruined settlement comprising buildings that surround two open plazas. Archaeologists believe that the site played an important role in trade routes passing south to Huastecos groups and also north, into what is now the south-eastern United States. Around 200 human burials have been excavated here. The restoration of the site began in the late 1980s.

El Sabinito

Located at the foothills of the Tamaulipeca mountain range, El Sabinito is a settlement made up of over 600 structures. Evidence suggests inhabitation began around 200 AD although it perhaps reached its apogee around 1000 AD, at which point it may have been home to 1500 inhabitants. However, around 1100 AD El Sabinito was abandoned, with the community who lived here presumably turning to a more nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

Pyramid Las Flores

The Las Flores Pyramid was once one of 20 mounds erected here between 1000 and 1250 AD, with a possible resurgence of activity between then and 1500. Unfortunately, most of the site was destroyed in the 20th century although, thanks to a restoration project in the 1990s, the surviving soil-built pyramid still stands 6 meters high. Ceramic evidence from the site reflects the influence of Toltec and Mayan communities.