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Tlapacoya, an archaeological site in the eastern Valley of Mexico, on lower slopes of the east edge of a small volcanic hill. These slopes were once the shores of a huge extinct lake, Lago de Chalco, that covered much of what is now eastern Mexico City. The lake's beaches, as well as small caves up the slopes from them, were first occupied by early hunters between 10,000 and 40,000 years ago. Their cultural remains are meagerly documented by crude choppers, scrapers, and knives; a fine prismatic obsidian blade found in the lake deposits was dated by hydration at about 19,000 years old.

Just north of the Paleo-Indian remains, a series of deep trenches establisheda sequence of Archaic occupation. Study of the scarce lithic tools taken from these trenches has allowed us to divide the Archaic sequence into three phases: Playa 1, 5500–4500 bce; Playa 2, 4500–3500 bce; and Zohapilco, 3500–2000 bce. During the first two phases the occupants were probably collectors, while the Paleo-Indians of the third phase were sedentary agriculturists in preceramic times—although a single crude clay figurine was found.

Above these remains, probably not much earlier than 1300 bce, were a series of strata with abundant ceramics, figurines, and grinding stones of the Formative period (1300–200 bce), during which people lived in definite villages and practiced agriculture full time. A study of the ceramics and figurines allows this sequence to be divided into a series of phases: Nevada (1300–1200 bce), Ayotla (1200–1000 bce), Manantial (1000–800 bce), Zacatenco (800–400 bce), and Ticomán (400–200 bce). The phases document the shift from a time of village agriculture to a period (Ayotla) when the pyramids were constructed and there was influence from the Veracruz coast Olmec (Manantial). During Ticomán, the rise of the state began and laid the foundation for establishment of Teotihuacán.

See alsoArchaeology .


Paul Tolstoy and Louise I. Paradis, "Early and Middle Preclassic Culture in the Basin of Mexico," in Science 167 (1970): 344-351, and "Early and Middle Preclassic Culture in the Basin of Mexico," in Observations on the Emergence of Civilization in Mesoamerica. Contributions of the University of California Archaeological Research Facility, edited by Robert F. Heizer and John A. Graham (1971), pp. 7-28.

Christine Niederberger, Zohapilco, cinco milenios de ocupación humana en un sitio lacustre de la Cuenca de México (1976).

Paul Tolstoy, Suzanne K. Fish, Martin W. Boksenbaum, Kathryn B. Vaughn, and C. Earle Smith, "Early Sedentary Communities of the Basin of Mexico," in Journal of Field Archaeology 4 (1977): 91-106.

Christine Niederberger, "Early Sedentary Economy in the Basin of Mexico," in Science 203 (1979): 131-142.

Pierre Becquelin and Claude F. Baudez, Toniná, une cité maya du Chiapas (Mexique), 3 vols. (1979–1982).

Additional Bibliography

Clark, John E., and Mary E. Pye, eds. Olmec Art and Archaeology in Mesoamerica. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art; New Haven, CT: Distributed by Yale University Press, 2000.

Dixon, E. James. Bones, Boats & Bison: Archeology and the First Colonization of Western North America. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1999.

Lorenzo, José Luis, and Lorena Mirambell. Tlapacoya: 35,000 años de historia del Lago de Chalco. México, D.F.: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 1986.

Nárez, Jesú s. Materiales arqueológicos de Tlapacoya. México, D.F.: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 1990.

                                        Richard S. MacNeish

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