Cholula (Pre-Columbian)

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Cholula (Pre-Columbian)

Cholula is located in the municipality of San Andrés Cholula and San Pedro Cholula, in the state of Puebla, Mexico. Some two hundred years before the modern era it was an agricultural village with a ceremonial center. Cholula had several different names in pre-Hispanic times, all related to the concept of the hill as a sacred place. It shows evidence of being populated for a long time, from the preclassical period (1500 bce–100 ce) until the arrival of the Spaniards (in the sixteenth century). Originally an agricultural village, from the onset of the modern era it became a ceremonial center with an urban layout, divided into four neighborhoods. The town flourished during the classical period (300–900) with the development of a structured city, which had territorial divisions like those of Teotihuacan and included the largest pyramid in the whole of Mesoamerica. This building consisted of a pattern of geometric structures that were gradually added to over the years. Mural paintings can be seen in some of the buildings, of which the most famous is the one known as The Drinkers, a naturalistic representation of a ceremony in which individuals are drinking pulque (a fermented drink from a cactus plant named maguey). A type of polychrome ceramic, known as cholulteco, was produced in this location, and from here its production spread to other regions. The local population declined significantly after the classical period.

Cholula was visited and written about by chroniclers such as Hernán Cortés, Antonio de Torquemada, and Bernal Díaz del Castillo, who described the main covered pyramid he saw upon his arrival as "like a great hill." Toward the end of the sixteenth century the colonial magistrate (corregidor), Gabriel Rojas, carried out an excavation at the top of the Great Pyramid and unearthed snail conchs that served as ritual trumpets. During the colonial period, the Church of Our Lady of Good Remedy (Nuestra Señora de los Remedios) was built on the town's pre-Hispanic foundation.

In 1931 the Monuments Department, under the leadership of the architect Emilio Cuevas, Ignacio Herrera, and Mariano Gómez, began the first series of studies of the area, in which they constructed tunnels in order to explore the covered buildings. In the 1960s Ignacio Marquina had six kilometers of tunnels dug to explore the substructures and analyze the building system that had been used. The archeological site is currently under the protection of the INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History), and the area has sufficient infrastructure to allow for tourism.

See alsoMesoamerica; Puebla (State); Teotihuacán.


Marquina, Ignacio, coordinator. Proyecto Cholula. México: INAH, 1970.

                            Sara LadrÓn de Guevara