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Don Karp, July 3 2023

Chalcatzingo-Morelos Archeological Site

                                                       Chalcatzingo, Morelos, Mexico. Photo by author

Chalcatzingo is an ancient Olmec site (1,500 BC) an hour's drive from Tepoztlán, where I live. The Olmecs are the oldest known Mesoamerican civilization. A group of us went on an excursion there. Here is a link to a YouTube video about Olmec culture.

After walking in from the parking lot, we first examined the bas-reliefs carved into the rocks and protected with overhanging roofs.  We took a long hike up the mountain. After coming down, and before leaving, we investigated the pyramids at the site.

It turned out to be a very long and tiring but very rewarding day.

                              Chalcatzingo, Morelos, Mexico. We walk in from the parking lot. Photos by author


Bas-reliefs are carvings in the rock. Chilcatzingo is one of only two Olmec sites having these. They are unique and varied in content. Here is a slide show I made of them:

After looking at the bas-reliefs, we decided to take the trail to climb the mountain.

Chalcatzingo, Morelos. We look at the mountain and decide to hike the trail to its summit. Photo by author

On the way from the area with the bas-reliefs to the beginning of the trail, we saw some interesting flora and fauna.

Chalcatzingo, Morelos, Mexico. We saw this incredible amate tree growing over the rock. Photos by author

Climbing the Mountian

One member of our group had climbed the mountain before and guided us on the trail to the summit. It took us a grueling  two hours, given the heat and dryness, to get to the top. The trail was not difficult other than this, and the views were spectacular. We witnessed a lot of beautiful nature on the trail.

Chalcatzingo, Morelos, Mexico. First, we climbed on some rocks (upper right) that soon became stairs                                           (lower right).     Here (left) we start on the trail. Photos by author

Chalcatzingo , Morelos, Mexico. The tree on the left has interesting regularly spaced horizontal markings. The shrubs on the right   are flowering. Photos by author

Chalcatzingo , Morelos, Mexico. This reminds me of the saguaro cactus I'd seen in the Sonora desert near                                                                          Tucson,Az.  Photos by author

Chalcatzingo, Morelos, Mexico. Here are natural patterns of concentric lines and a plethora of colors.                                                                                              Photos by author

Chalcatzingo, Morelos, Mexico. We finally reached the top! Note the beautiful panorama of views (top). There is a cross (lower right), and here is a companion mountain (lower middle).  It's nice to take a rest and                                                              recharge (lower left). Photos by author

The trip down was by the same trail. Gravity helped, but we were so tired from the heat and struggle to get the to top that the descent was giddy.

The Pyramids

Before leaving the site, we checked out the rounded pyramids.

Chalcatzingo, Morelos, Mexico. Pyramid from above, taken on the trail (lower left). Notice the colorful stonework in the other photos. Photos by author 

Chalcatzingo, Morelos, Mexico. The rounded shapes differ from most other pyramids I'd seen. Photos by author

Between the two pyramids is a flat rectangular stone structure. I am guessing that it is the place where a speaker might stand to be heard by an audience sitting on the pyramids. When we stood there and clapped, the echo that came back from the pyramids was of a much higher pitch. Did the architects plan that? I think so.

Chalcatzingo, Morelos, Mexico. Notice the center rectangular array of stones between the pyramids. Photo by author

Everyone in our group left Chalcatzingo exhausted but happy for the experience.

FYI: Here is a link to a news article about the recent return of an Olmec artifact to Mexico. It is now on display in Cuernavaca, but will eventually be housed at the Chalcatzingo site.

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If you've not yet seen my blog compilation, or looked at my memoirs, please check out my author page. I'd love to see more well-developed reviews, or just get some comments in my email box. Would you like to see a Letters From Mexico, Part Two (blog compliation)?


Written by

Don Karp

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