El Tajin is a Mesoamerican archaeological site located in the North of the state of Veracruz, near the Gulf Coast of Mexico. [6] Unlike the highly rigid grid patterns of ancient cities in the central highlands of Mexico, the builders of El Tajin designed and aligned buildings as individual units. His special interests include pottery, architecture, world mythology and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share in common. Each of these consists of a sloping base wall called a talud and a vertical wall called a tablero, which was fairly common in Mesoamerica. [12], El Tajín prospered until the early years of the 13th century, when it was destroyed by fire, presumably started by an invading force believed to be the Chichimecs. Mark is a history writer based in Italy. However, there are no records by any Europeans about the place prior to the late 18th century. Building 4 contains a smaller, older structure inside it that may be among the earliest structures at the site. Pyramid of the Niches . They include scores of temples, eleven ballcourts, a palace complex, and numerous other public buildings covering 2.5 square kilometers. The criticism is that it disrespects the site and the Totonac people. This led to the building of many pyramids with temples and seventeen ballcourts, more than any other Mesoamerican site. [19], From 600 to 1200 CE, El Tajín was a prosperous city that eventually controlled much of what is now modern Veracruz state. PAGE 122 122 Figure 67. Off the stairs and leading east from the pyramid are large round stone with holes in the middle, in which were probably placed banners. Surviving roof fragments from Building C in the Tajín Chico section is an example of cement roof constructions. It is flanked by four high buildings, named Buildings 16, 18, 19 and 20, which were topped by temples. [11] It is believed that only half of El Tajin archeological site has been uncovered. Niches are also found underneath the stairway along the east face, which indicates that the stairway was a later addition. By this time, he had uncovered most of the major buildings and established that Tajín was one of the most important cities of ancient Mexico. The merchant deity found here has features more in common with this kind of deity in the central highlands of Mexico than of Tajín. However, the one on the northeast side has been completely destroyed due to centuries-old trail that was used when this area was still jungle. In being named a World Heritage Site in 1992, new facilities have been added to this area, such as a cafeteria, information services, a park and administrative offices. Remnants of this paint can be seen on part of the stairway and on the side facing east toward Building 23. It consists of five stories in near vertical talud without niches. In addition, the Danza de los Voladores is enacted at the entrance to the site and is considered a requirement for visitors. At El Tajin various rituals-including human sacrifice, are shown in the South Ball Court with participants sporting yokelike belts. Model of the northern section of El Tajin showing the Tajin Chico section Mural fragments from Building 10 ... South Ball Court . The entrance to the building from the plaza was through a divided stairway, leading to a single room 32 by 24 feet (9.8 by 7.3 m) in size. José García Payón, who followed Spinden and who for over three decades was the head archaeologist at El Tajín, was especially intrigued by the iconography of the South Ballcourt panels. The Cumbre Tajin is considered to be an identity festival of the Totonacs, who are considered to be the guardians of El Tajín. In 1935-38 the first formal mapping, clearing and exploration was done by Agustin Garcia Vega. [30], The entrance to the site is located at the south end. It is a modern facility with the aim of being a center of Veracruz indigenous identity. The rain god is shown in a rite of auto sacrifice running a spike through part of his penis. The four panels at the end depict scenes related to the ball game ritual. The panels at the centre symbolize the gods performing their own ritual or responding to the entreaties of p… This space is broken by six stone and cement pillars which support the floor above. The entrance is on the south side of the building and is quite elaborate. The niches on the original structure, not counting those on the later stairway, total 365, the solar year. The two lower levels are adorned with larger niches as is the top of the stairway divider. One panel shows two ball players cutting out the heart of a third player above whom is another skeletal figure hungry for the victim’s soul. [12] El Tajín reached its peak after the fall of Teotihuacan, and conserved many cultural traits inherited from that civilization. [10], In 2009, the event added the Encuentro Internacional de Voladores (International Encounter of Voladores). The stairway to the temple is adorned on the sides with frets, which are called xicalcoliuhqui. Its significance was due to its large- number of ballcourts, sophisticated art forms, and unique architecture. [45] The upper level contains a corridor that goes all the way around and a number of rooms. [11] In ancient times, this city was located in the northeast corner of what is called Mesoamerica,[12] and controlled an area from between the Cazones and Tecolutla Rivers to the modern state of Puebla. Yet there is equally a theme of rebirth associated with the ubiquitous ballgame as the blood spilled during the sacrifice was thought to feed the Maize God, mimicking the watering of … Archeological evidence shows that a village existed here at the time the Spanish arrived and the area has always been considered sacred by the Totonacs. The deteriorated north central panel shows two cross-legged figures facing each other. El Tajin is located near the coast of eastern Mexico and was an important Mesoamerican centre which flourished between 900 and 1100 CE. This floor is more spacious even though there are columns here as well. It also gained the interest of several academics, who compared the pyramid with the constructions of ancient Rome. 1). Yet the city’s singularity as the only center in the region with such a wealth of sculpture and fine architecture has hindered a… There are also fears that large numbers of visitors to the site for events such as concerts by names such as Alejandra Guzmán damage the site. Between them are intertwined slashes, the symbol of the ballgame and a ball. Most courts were deliberately positioned so that background topographical rises were framed by the sloping sides as one looked down the length of … The stones are arranged in controlled lines and delicate proportions. An athletic event, gambling purposes, gladiatorial contests, or ritual sacrifice purposes This is the only multistoried palace found outside the Mayan areas. The building is mostly constructed of carefully cut and crafted flagstones, the largest of which is estimated to be about eight metric tons in weight. These buildings are situated on a platform-terrace with was formed on natural contours and filled in spaces. It hosts fairs, conventions and other events, including part of the annual Cumbre Tajín cultural festival which is held in March. [32], The site museum is divided into two parts: an enclosed building and a roofed area covering large stone sculpture fragments. The three figures are all dressed in the garments and symbols of the ballgame. [17][37], The ritual function of the building is not primarily calendaric. Related Content The court is 87 feet (27 m) long, which is considered to be unusually small and has vertical rather than sloping walls. The structure originally was covered in stucco which served as the base for paint. A figure dressed as an eagle dances in front while a skeletal deity flies above and the death deity rises from liquid. [17] It is unclear who built the city. [59] However, the Centro de Artes Indígenas de Veracruz states that it works very hard to preserve and promote Totonac culture through the event, sponsoring events such as traditional cooking, painting and the ritual of the Voladores. [50], While the Blue Temple was a fairly early construction, the pyramid next to it, Building 23 was built very late in Tajin's history. In El Tajin, from Late Classic Period AD 650 - AD 1000. The entrance to the site is located at the south end. Adornment in the form of niches and stepped frets are omnipresent, decorating even utilitarian buttresses and platform walls. The south ballcourt is of particular interest because of its relief sculpture depicting rituals, including human sacrifice. The unreconstructed north side has a large indentation made by looters before the site was protected by guards. [6], When it was rediscovered by officialdom in 1785, the site was known to the local Totonac, whose ancestors may also have built the city, as El Tajín, which was said to mean “of thunder or lightning bolt”. There is a popular belief that each niche contained an idol or effigy but archeological work here has ruled this out. [52], Building 5 is considered to be the stateliest of the El Tajin site. UNESCO World Heritage Site (El Tajin, Pre-Hispanic City, unique to a cultural tradition, World Heritage criterion section (iv), 1992–) Cultural property under special protection (2015–) Area: 240 ha (UNESCO World Heritage Site) ... South Ball Court, Tajín‎ (17 F) T [6][19] The rapid rise of Tajin was due to its strategic position along the old Mesoamerican trade routes. When the city fell, most of the sculptures in this area were smashed or defaced with some being reused as building stone. One holds a large knife in his left hand and gestures with his right. Built in the 10th century CE, it originally had a six-column colonnade on its eastern façade and is approached by a short stairway with retaining walls. His appearance here underlies the significance of this pyramid. El Tajin. [6][15], Chronology studies at Tajín and nearby sites show that the area has been occupied at least since 5600 BCE and show how nomadic hunters and gatherers eventually became sedentary farmers, building more complex societies prior to the rise of the city of El Tajin. Due to the lack of beams or other materials to prop it up, this roof had to be very thick to support itself. Both are small temple-like platforms. There have been a number of research projects as well as reconstruction projects and projects to make more of the site accessible to visitors. There are also facilities for workshops, exhibitions, alternative therapies, seminars and ceremonies. Lightning Gods and Feathered Serpents: The Public Sculpture of El Tajín... Sacrificios de sangre:: conductas rituales e inhumaciones en la civilización... Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. While located next to the Pyramid of the Niches, its visual appeal is not lost to its more famous neighbor. [12], One notable aspect of the construction at El Tajin is the use of poured cement in forms. The center figure has his arms held back by the one on the left. To lighten the load and to bind the layers of cement, pumice stones and pottery shards were mixed into the cement. With the discovery of oil in the area came roads that were built and improved from the 1920s to the 1940s. In front is a sacrifice victim with his entrails slung over a frame. The city-state was highly centralized,[1] with the city itself having more than fifty ethnicities living there. [11] West of the building on the south side is a large ball court with sloped sides and sculpted friezes depicting the god Quetzalcoatl. [12] These two streams provided the population's potable water. However, as the term was already in the literature about the site, it has stuck. Each year since 1992, the number of visitors to the site increases which now stands at 653,000 annually. [55], The South Ballcourt, like the North Ball court, has only vertical walls which are sculpted. There are scrolls indicating speech from the sacrifice as well as a depiction of the skeletal god. The liquid is protected by a reclining chacmool, who is speaking. [13] The main city is defined by two streams which merge to form the Tlahuanapa Arroyo, a tributary of the Tecolutla River. [7] The Totonacs established the nearby settlement of Papantla after the fall of El Tajín. Ballcourt at Chichen Itza, Yucatan. The pyramid has six platforms, is 20 metres high, whilst each side is 26 metres wide. [1] From the time the city fell, in 1230, to 1785, no European seems to have known of its existence, until a government inspector chanced upon the Pyramid of the Niches. This may therefore be linked to another Totonac meaning claimed for El Tajín: “place of the invisible beings or spirits”. The reason for this change in orientation is unknown but may simply be a question of geographical limitations. It is probably that this building was used by priests or rulers to receive visitors, petitioners and others. Our latest articles delivered to your inbox, once a week: Numerous educational institutions recommend us, including Oxford University and Michigan State University and University of Missouri. PAGE 123 123 Figure 68. In the center are two intertwined serpents which seem to form the shape of a tlaxmalactl or ball game marker. The upper level was adorned with stepped frets and scrolls as well. by Estudio de Arquepoética y Visualística Prospectiva (CC BY-NC-SA). The sides of the enclosure are formed by a slender platform with sloping sides and free standing niches, resembling the Pyramid of the Niches. A richly decorated stairway leads to a small structure on the top platform. [44], Building A has two levels, stepped frets and niches and is reminiscent of structures found in the Yucatán. However, a series of indigenous maps dating from the time of the Spanish conquest, found in nearby Tihuatlan and now known as the Lienzos de Tuxpan, suggest that the city might then have been called “Mictlan” or “place of the dead”, a common denomination for ancient sites whose original names have been lost. Ballcourt at El Tajin. The city, one of the most flourishing of the Classic and early Post-classic period, was only rediscovered in 1785, immediately capturing the imagination of European travelers with its imposing jungle-covered ruins and unusual architecture. This is part of an initial activity before the game itself starts. The stairs are made from a mixture of lime, sand and clay without a stone core. [20] Most of the population lived in the hills surrounding the main city,[13] and the city obtained most of its foodstuffs from the Tecolutla, Nautla and Cazones areas. Some of the events include musical concerts, experiencing a temazcal, theatrical events and visiting El Tajin at night, with a total over 5,000 activities. Access to the top of the pyramid, where the temple once stood, is via a double staircase on the east side. "El Tajin." The arms are holding a serpent like form and the body contains scrolls, which may signify sacrificial blood. The site museum is also located here. El Tajin South Ballcourt : Click on the pictures Building 5 in the background. [11][25] From 1984 to 1994, Jürgen K. Brüggemann built on the work of García Payón, uncovering 35 more buildings. The rest of the procession consists of warriors holding captives by their hair. In addition, El Tajin displays advanced construction techniques as many structures have concrete slab roofs, the liquid concrete having been poured over wooden frames. [26], El Tajín was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1992, because of its historical significance and architecture and engineering. Is missing the middle part of the structure, which is a large chunk. Ancient History Encyclopedia. A large quantity of sculpture was recovered from this pyramid. Most of the buildings are at the southern end, where the land is relatively flat and the two streams converge. This stone carving from the South Ballcourt at the archaeological site of El Tajin, Veracruz, Mexico. This was obviously the most important one, as it is decorated with six marvelous panels carved in bas-relief. The columns carry relief carvings which narrate scenes from the life of probably El Tajin’s last ruler, 13 Rabbit. Unlike the rest of the city, these four buildings are uniform in height and nearly symmetrical. The deep niches imitate caves, which long have been considered to be passageways to the underworld, where many of the gods reside. One has survived mostly intact and is now in the site museum. [15] To date, only about fifty percent of the city's buildings has been excavated, revealing a series of plazas, palaces, and administrative buildings within a two-square-mile area. It is unknown if the similarity between this building and the Pyramid of the Niches indicates a relationship between the two. [6] In total there have been 20 ballcourts discovered at this site, (the last 3 being discovered in March 2013). Northeast mural portraying human sacrifice. South ballcourt at El Tajin. The south end of the ballcourt, however, is defined by Building 16, an early version of the Pyramid of the Niches. Indeed, El Tajin seems to have been a repository for rubber which was used to make the solid black balls used in the Mesoamerican ballgame. As late as the mid 20th century, remains of beeswax candles could still be found left on the first level of this pyramid. El Tajin was destroyed by fire and abandoned around 1100 CE or even earlier. Many have feathered headdresses and reptilian attributes and a few are human like. Veracruz. El Tajin is a more modern name derived from the Totonac rain god or, more precisely, the twelve old men or Tajin who were considered lords of thunderstorms and who were thought to live in the ruins of the city. [11] Total site extends for 1,056 hectares (4.08 sq mi). The original staircase was destroyed then reworked into its present form. It was prominent in ancient times as well. [16] The pace of this societal progression became more rapid with the rise of the neighboring Olmec civilization around 1150 BCE, although the Olmecs were never here in great numbers. Between the two sets of staircases on the first level on the east side is a tall column-line sculpture. Mexico. There are more than a hundred niches in this wall, broken up by a number of entrances. Surrounding it are tobacco fields, banana plantations, apiaries and vanilla groves. The four end panels have scenes relating to the ritual of the ball game that result in entreaties to the gods. It is part of one of the last building complexes built at El Tajín. By the 1970s, the site was one of the few in Veracruz state that attracted significant numbers of tourists. For the Mexican seasoning containing chili peppers, lime, and salt, see, "El Tajín, Abode of the Dead "The Photography of Nicolas Sapieha, "El Tajin, Veracruz, Mexico, Ruin Site, Pyramid of the Niches", "La prodigiosa ciudad de El Tajín, en Veracruz", "Esclarecen orígenes de la cultura de El Tajín", "El Tajín en el siglo xviii Dos exploraciones pioneras en Veracruz", "The Photography of Nicolas Sapieha: El Tajin", "Ancient Mexican Carvings Being Erased by Acid Rain, Experts Say", "La Cumbre Tajín no dañará la ciudad sagrada, recalcan", El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, Rock Paintings of Sierra de San Francisco, Sanctuary of Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco, Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila, Earliest 16th-century monasteries on the slopes of Popocatépetl, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=El_Tajín&oldid=1000819163, Articles with dead external links from December 2016, Articles with permanently dead external links, Wikipedia articles with WorldCat-VIAF identifiers, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, Ancient Maya City and Protected Tropical Forests of, This page was last edited on 16 January 2021, at 21:53. This ball court forms a long rectangle bordered to the south by a large building which acted as a tribune, with the platform of building 5 marking the northern end. [10] Many of the cultural, craft and gastronomic events occur at the adjacent Parque Takilhsukut which just located just outside the archeological site. The interior of the building is composed of loose stone, mostly rounded river boulders. Northeast mural: two players cut out the heart of a third as a skeletal monster descends upon them. The stones, especially around the niches are fitted together as to need a minimum amount of lime and earth mortar. Ballplayers from Guerrero, Mexico. Events include those traditional to the Totonac culture as well as modern arts and events from cultures from as far as Tibet. Two have been partially explored. This fill is strained between the sloping walls which become the taluds of each level of the pyramid. He continued to explore the site for 39 years until his death in 1977 despite the challenges of working in the jungle and the lack of funds. South ballcourt, ballplayer (carving) in ‘underground temple’ El Tajín had only one period of occupation lasting from 800 to 1200 AD and was inhabited by about 15.000 - 20.000 people. [34] The market that filled this plaza consisted of stalls made with sticks and cloth offering regional products such as vanilla as well as products from other parts of Mesoamerica such as jaguar skins, exotic birds such as the parrot and the macaw and quetzal feathers. Voladores come from as far as San Luis Potosi and Guatemala. El Tajin became one of the most significant centers in Mesoamerica during the Pre- Columbian era around 6001100 CE. Under the fourth panel, an older panel was found. The most impressive of these panels are on the South Ballcourt which contain images of underworld deities and a ballplayer being decapitated in order to approach the gods and ask for pulque for his people. Another feature shared only with the Mayans is the use of a light blue paint. In the 8th century CE, the Pyramid of the Niches was completed and the huge raised acropolis platform of Tajin Chico was constructed. These frets were probably painted blue as they were on other buildings, where remains of paint have been found. Entrance and museum: Volador Plaza and commercial area Diego Rivera mural of El Tajin. He was also the first to speculate that the pyramid was part of a larger city. Cartwright, Mark. We have also been recommended for educational use by the following publications: Ancient History Encyclopedia Foundation is a non-profit organization registered in Canada. Web. The 'Pyramid of the Niches', a masterpiece of ancient Mexican and American architecture, reveals the astronomical and symbolic significance of the buildings.”[4] The site is one of the most important in Mexico and the most important in the state of Veracruz. The use of niches is unique to El Tajin. [46] Building A is constructed over older buildings that were buried when this area was filled in, some aspects of the building, like the buttresses been damage due to settling where there are no buildings below. From the early 7th century CE, El Tajin began to conquer the smaller surrounding settlements to establish itself as the dominant force in the area. What is being requested is pulque, indicated by a glyph indicating the mythical origin of the drink and a split image of the god of pulque above the scene. El Tajin Map Plaza del Arroyo Pyramid of the Niches [29] (wikerson45) Another feature unique to El Tajin is that a number of the residences have windows placed to allow cool breezes to enter on hot days. The pyramids here are primitive in comparison to the rest of the site, with niches that are not as finely formed. Two musicians are playing a turtle shell drum and clay rattles. The sculpted panels on these walls remain largely intact and show in step-by-step fashion how the ball game was played here, complete with ceremonies, sacrifice and the response of the gods. This name also appears in the Matricula de Tributos, a surviving Aztec tribute record, which later formed part of the Codex Mendoza. [6], Since becoming a World Heritage Site, research and conservation efforts have been made to promote knowledge of and protect the site. The first building to be completely cleared of jungle growth was the Pyramid of the Niches. [58], The Cumbre Tajin is an annual artistic and cultural festival which is held at the site in March. [4][19] It reached its apogee in the Epi-Classic (900-1100 CE) before suffering destruction and the encroachment of the jungle. One of the most striking structures at El Tajin is the South Ballcourt. Relief from the south ball court at El Tajin, panel 6, Depicts the sacrifice of a ball player who acts as an intermediary between this world and that of the gods, who look on. The first is the Great Xicalcoluihqui, or the Great Enclosure. Originally the structure was painted a dark red with the niches in black intended to deepen the shadows of the recessed niches. Inside the pyramid is a smaller one, contemporary with the outer facing which was originally painted bright red. One criticism is the illumination of pyramids at night without any kind of cultural historical instruction. Human Sacrifice, El Tajinby Thomas Aleto (CC BY). Variant forms of the god of pulque appear over each of the end panels, suggesting that the drink was an important part of the ritual. South Ballcourt relief, El Tajn, Veracruz, Late Classic Hacha, El Tajn, Veracruz, Late Classic Palma with Maize God The iconography of those scenes, which is the chief subject of this chapter, forms a narrative program that may be compared with the two major programs already discussed: those of the Central Plaza and the South Ballcourt. Ancient History Encyclopedia Foundation is a non-profit organization. Written by Mark Cartwright, published on 27 January 2015 under the following license: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. The sculpture is similar in style to the carved stone yokes of Veracruz. The divider in the center is a buttress to hold the fill behind the stairs in place. One of the most interesting objects on display is an altar from Building 4. It is thought to symbolize lightning and while it is common in Mesoamerica, it is a very prominent motif here. Late Classical to Early Postclassical Period 850-1100 CE. Stairways lead from the plaza floor to the temples above. The interior of the pyramid is rocks and earth. A part of the Classic Veracruz culture, El Tajín flourished from 600 to 1200 CE and during this time numerous temples, palaces, ballcourts, and pyramids were built. [12] German architect Charles Nebel visited the site in 1831 and was the first to graphically and narratively detail the Pyramid of the Niches as well as the nearby ruins of Mapilca and Tuzapan. In his left hand and gestures with his entrails slung over a frame between the two streams provided the 's. Erected at the site museum is also located here [ 39 ], just east of Tajin was. Being traditional the frets were painted center panels show a ruler of El Tajín on both the east facade the. 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