Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Northern Mexico
Art, History & Archaeology Sites & Museums

Archaeology & History Sites in Chihuahua

Cuarenta Casas

Partly constructed from adobe buildings and partly carved into the rock face itself, the Cuarenta Casas (‘Forty Houses’) is a settlement built into the cliffs of Huapoca Canyon. Archaeologists identify the builders and residents of this settlement with the Mogollon culture and through excavation have discovered traces of how these people sustained themselves in this arid environment – including through the cultivation of pumpkin and corn. Experts have argued that the settlement, prior to its decline in the 14th century, was important in linking the community at Paquimé with those along the Pacific coast.

Cueva de la Olla

The Cueva de la Olla, or ‘Cave of the Pot’, is one of a number of cliff settlements in the region. With trade and possibly other links to the larger town at Paquimé, the inhabitants of the Cueva de la Olla were part of the Mogollon culture, a grouping spread across large parts of northern Mexico and into the southwestern United States. 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.

Cueva Grande

One of the various cliff settlements found in this part of North America, the Cueva Grande (‘Big Cave’) was inhabited roughly between the 13th and mid-16th centuries AD. Its residents were part of what archaeologists now call the Mogollon culture, something that can be identified by recurring artefact assemblages across a large area of northern Mexico, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. Located not far from the Huápoca settlement, the Cueva Grange people had links with the larger town at Paquimé, something evidenced through archaeological evidence of trade connections between them.


A now isolated cliff settlement created by members of what archaeologists term the Mogollon culture, Huapoca was inhabited between roughly 1000 and 1450 AD. Much of the structure has been carved out of the rockface, with additional walls built out of adobe brick to create a series of rooms that can still be explored today. The settlement is divided into four parts, which are termed the eagle nest cave, snake cave, viewpoint cave, and the watchtower. In one of these was found a mummified adult, now cared for at a regional museum.


Its name 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, when it served as a point of contact between the Pueblo communities further north and the more complex Mesoamerican societies to the south and east. It 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 & History Sites in Coahuila

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Archaeology & History Sites in Durango

La Ferrería

La Ferrería (‘The Ironworks’) emerged around 600 AD, during a period of local history that archaeologists call the Ayala phase. Over the course of the Classic Period, La Ferrería became the largest settlement in the Guadiana Valley and a major religious center. However, 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. A nearby museum showcases a range of artefacts that archaeologists have recovered from the site and from Durango state more widely.

Archaeology & History Sites in Nuevo León

Boca de Potrerillos

The thousands of petroglyphs that can be seen at Boca de Potrerillos (‘Potrerillos Mouth’) make this one of Mexico’s premier rock art sites. In addition to the engravings there are also a small number of rock paintings present. Although it is very difficult to precisely date these images, archaeologists believe that they were produced by prehistoric hunter-gatherer communities, evidence of whom has been recovered in the area. Many of the images depicted are of objects that would have been pertinent to the semi-nomadic lifestyle of hunter-gatherer bands, with some carvings suggesting astronomical significance.

Archaeology & History Sites in Sinaloa

Las Labradas

Las Labradas boasts around 600 petroglyphs carved into volcanic boulders scattered along the coastline, often on the beach itself. 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 what archaeologists call the Aztatlán Period. A range of image types are present, including depictions of humanoid and animal forms but also geometric shapes, spirals, and crosses. Reflecting its value, Las Labradas is now a candidate to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Archaeology & History Sites in Sonora

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Archaeology & History Sites in Tamaulipas

Balcón de Montezuma

Inhabited largely in the Late Classic Period, the Balcón de Montezuma (‘Balcony of Montezuma’) stands in the Sierra Madre Oriental range. The ruined settlement comprises a series of buildings, their bases constructed largely from limestone blocks, that are arranged around 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 that habitation at the site began around 200 AD and grew over the centuries, reaching its apogee around 1000 AD, at which point El Sabinito may have been home to 1500 inhabitants. However, the site was abandoned around 1100 AD – the community who lived here presumably rejected sedentary life for a more nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The settlement was only rediscovered and brought to the attention of archaeologists in 1987.

Pyramid Las Flores

The Las Flores Pyramid is the surviving example of what were once around 20 mounds erected at this location in what is now the city of Tampico. These tumuli were largely created between 1000 and 1250 AD, although some may have appeared as late as 1500 AD. Most of the site was unfortunately destroyed in the 20th century although, thanks to a restoration project carried out 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.