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In Malinalco, a small town in southwestern México state, an important Mexica-Tenochca (Aztec) ceremonial-administrative site was built on the south side of Texcaltepec (Hill of the Idols). The site comprises a set of buildings dating from the early sixteenth century. The most exceptional is known as the Monolithic Temple, or Cuauhcalli, a truncated pyramid worked directly from volcanic tuff, a unique example in ancient Mexico of stone carving of enormous dimensions.

The upper façade of the temple's chapel is guarded by an open-mouthed sculpture of Cipactli (Earth Monster), a primeval mythical being associated with the creation of the universe and also with the earthly forces of fertility, particularly those emanating from caves. Despite highly reprehensible acts of vandalism in recent times, the interior of the chapel has been preserved in good condition. Within a space of about 19 feet (5.80 meters) in diameter, four stone carvings are arranged on the floor and on a semicircular bench around the walls. In the center, carved from the living rock of the floor, is an eagle, which faces the entrance. On the east and west sides are two more magnificent eagle sculptures. A carved jaguar rests in the center of the bench, situated on an approximate north-south axis.

This monolithic temple is believed to represent the meeting place of the forces of the upper world, in particular the sun (represented by the eagle), and the lower world: the earth (represented by the jaguar) and nature. In the magical-ritual world of the Aztecs, the two opposing forces needed to merge or complement each other so the universe would continue in balance, for the good of gods and human beings.

This temple is one of many constructions in a group scattered over a wide terrace formed artificially by excavating part of the mountainside and adding large quantities of fill. The other structures principally used masonry in their construction. One of the more interesting is Building III, with two chambers, one rectangular and the other semicircular. The floors of both contain square depressions where fire-related rituals were apparently practiced, so the roofs must have had smoke holes. The vestibule has wide benches attached to the east and west walls. The remains of a mural depicting warriors in procession were discovered in the chamber.

The town of Malinalco is home to the National Autonomous University of Mexico's Dr. Luis Mario Schneider Museum, located at the bottom of the road ascending to the archeological site. Inaugurated on May 18, 2001, the Museum provides a public space where the historical, cultural, artistic, and environmental heritage of Malinalco and its environs can be exhibited and stored.

See alsoAztecs .


García Payón, José. Los monumentos arqueológicos de Malinalco. México: Biblioteca Enciclopédica del Estado de México, 1974 [1947].

Noguez, Xavier. "El templo monolítico de Malinalco, Estado de México." Arqueología Mexicana 13, No. 78 (2006): 68-73.

Townsend, Richard F. "Malinalco and the Lords of Tenochtitlan." In The Art and Iconography of Late Post-Classic Central Mexico, edited by Elizabeth P. Benson and Elizabeth Hill Boone. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, 1982.

                                    Xavier Noguez