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Paquime in Mexico


Paquime. The Casas Grandes, also known as Paquimé, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Chihuahua, Northern Mexico.

Paquimé, also known as the Casas Grandes, is an architectural marvel and nobody knows quite how it got there. A city emerged 1000 years ago in the dry lands that of what is now Chihuahua. Over time, it grew larger and richer and then disappeared. To this day we do not know if it was abandoned slowly or quickly. According to one theory, the people of Paquimé engaged in war with a neighboring tribe and abandoned the city as a result. Another theory is that the inhabitants simply left to find better opportunities elsewhere. Who these people are and what language they spoke remains a mystery.

The Casa Grande Ruins

The Casas Grandes community was deserted from 1450 CE onwards. The first contact Europeans had with Casas Grandes was when Spanish explorer Francisco de Ibarra found the ruins in 1565. The lost inhabitants left no trace of any written documentation, so it is unclear what language they used to speak. People have been visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site since the 1800’s.

Between 1130 and 1300 CE, people began to settle in the fertile valley through which the San Miguel River flows. Each of the settlements had a courtyard in the middle and was enclosed by a brick wall. The largest settlement of them all was the Casas Grandes, also known as Paquimé. The Casas Grandes had a complicated water system comprising channels for water to get to the homes, reservoirs, a sewage system and an underground drain system. The buildings are made of adobe bricks made from sand, water and clay mixed with sticks, straw and/or manure. Builders would mould the bricks using their hands and then leave them to dry in the sun.

The ex inhabitants of the Casas Grandes used to earn a living by making and selling jewelry, ornaments and pottery. Today, Paquimé style pottery is thought to be of the highest quality. It can be easily-identified as almost all of it is white with an individual blue pattern hand-painted over the top.

After the installation of a railway line in the mid-1800s, more and more people began visiting the Casa Grande ruins. An increase in tourist arrivals led to a huge rise in graffiti and vandalism. In 1892, the Mexican president decided to set aside a large chunk of land surrounding the Casa Grande as a culture reserve. He also employed an on-site caretaker to watch over the ancient ruins night and day. Extensive repair work was carried out and a corrugated iron roof was positioned above the Casa Grande to prevent further weather damage. In 1918, the Mexican President declared the Casa Grande a National Monument.

Photo by pulverem reverteris