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Casas Grandes

Casas Grandes

Casas Grandes, an archaeological site in north-central Chihuahua state in Mexico. Although it has a number of Mesoamerican features, it is separated from the northernmost Mesoamerican sites in Zacatecas by many miles and really belongs in the southernmost part of the Southwestern culture area.

The earliest occupation at Casas Grandes is called the Medio period (1060–1340), although for half a millennium earlier a Mogollon-like population occupied the area, lived in pit houses, and made red pottery. During the earliest part of the Medio period, the Buena Fé phase (1060–1205), a large town was built, featuring twenty or so house clusters around plazas enclosed by a fortification wall. The houses were made of mud concrete poured walls, had T-shaped doorways, and were usually one story. The people made polychrome pottery and kept breeding boxes for macaws imported from Mesoamerica. Charles Di Peso interpreted this entire construction as built by the pochteca traders from central Mexico who invaded and ruled Casas Grandes.

During the next phase, the Paquimé (1205–1261), the town blossomed. Four- or five-story adobe apartment complexes were built, as well as effigy mounds and pyramids. A complex irritation system and a road system were constructed, features attributable to Mesoamerican influences. The amount of Mexican imports—copper bells, armlets, rings, pendants, shells, and perhaps obsidian—also increased.

Almost as fast as the Paquimé rise was the decline in the Diablo phase (1261–1340). The multistoried apartments fell into disrepair and the ceremonial structures ceased to be used, although fine polychrome pottery continued to be made and the population may have increased. By the 1350s, however, the site was abandoned, and the Casas Grandes culture ceased to exist.

See alsoArchaeology .


Charles C. Di Peso, Casas Grandes: A Fallen Trading Center of the Gran Chichimeca, 7 vols. (1974), and Casas Grandes and the Gran Chichimeca (n.d.).

Additional Bibliography

Lekson, Stephen H. The Chaco Meridian: Centers of Political Power in the Ancient Southwest. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press, 1999.

Nárez, Jesús, Araceli Rivera, and José Luis Rojas Martínez. Casas Grandes. México, D.F.: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1991.

Schaafsma, Curtis F., and Carroll L. Riley. The Casas Grandes World. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1999.

Townsend, Richard F., Ken Kokrda, and Barbara L. Moulard. Casas Grandes and the Ceramic Art of the Ancient Southwest. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago; New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005.

VanPool, Christine S., and Todd L. Signs of the Casas Grandes Shamans. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2007.

Whalen, Michael E., and Paul E. Minnis. Casas Grandes and Its Hinterland: Prehistoric Regional Organization in Northwest Mexico. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2001.

                                  Richard S. MacNeish

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