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Cuicuilco is an archaeological site located at the southern end of the Valley of Mexico on the outskirts of Mexico City. Between 300 and 1 bce it was one of the largest and most influential communities in central Mexico. It is believed that the site grew to cover 1.4 square miles (3.6 square kilometers) and had a resident population of around 20,000 people. A large circular temple platform 405 feet (123 meters) in diameter at the base and 60 feet (18 meters) high was constructed as the center of ritual activity at the site. This was the first monumental temple platform to be constructed in the Valley of Mexico, predating similar constructions at Teotihuacán by several hundred years.

The Valley of Mexico appears to have been divided into several large chiefdom societies between 300 and 1 bce. Cuicuilco was one of the biggest of these, and a large portion of the southwestern Valley of Mexico was under its sociopolitical control. Teotihuacán, in the northeast corner of the Valley of Mexico, was Cuicuilco's primary political competitor during this period.

The site of Cuicuilco was dramatically destroyed around 50 bce by a volcanic eruption from Mount Xitle. The entire residential area was covered by a massive lava flow that encased the archaeological site in a thick layer of basalt up to 33 feet (10 meters) deep. The destruction of Cuicuilco had immediate and dramatic repercussions throughout the Valley of Mexico. Teotihuacán emerged as the region's undisputed political leader and underwent accelerated growth as populations throughout the Valley of Mexico were resettled within its limits.

See alsoTeotihuacán .


Marquina, Ignacio. Arquitectura prehispanica. Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Secretaria de Educación Pública, 1964.

Parsons, Jeffrey, and Michael E. Whalen. Prehispanic Settlement Patterns in the Southern Valley of Mexico: The Chalco-Xochimilco Region. Ann Arbor: Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, 1982.

Saunders, William, Jeffrey R. Parsons, and Robert S. Santley. The Basin of Mexico: Ecological Processes in the Evolution of a Civilization. New York: Academic Press, 1979.

Schávelzon, Daniel. La pirámide de Cuicuilco. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1983.

                                          Kenneth Hirth