Tzintzuntzan Yacatas/Purépecha PyramidsMarch 16 in Mexico
The four of us walked up the hill from the old church complex through a market selling pottery and all sorts of objects made from reeds. We were headed towards a new restaurant, Las Yacatas, named after the semi-circular pyramids that looked over the town.
The restaurant was in a beautiful modern building with many Purépecha details, including a 2 story high mural. We thoroughly enjoyed the authentic and tasty food, and were in awe of the ultra clean and modern washrooms. What a lovely place in this small town!
After eating, we followed the hill up to the entry of the park where we watched a short film and then went for a peaceful and shady stroll around the site. The views from the park were awesome - the town, the lake, the mountains and old volcanoes. I was looking for petroglyphs, and I found lots.
Tzintzuntzan, located on the northeast shore of Lake Pátzcuaro, was once the capital of the Purépecha Empire and the site where the Purépecha people dominated from the 12th to the 15th century. The Purépecha Empire was a civilization just as powerful – and fascinating – as the Aztec Empire.
When the Spaniards arrived in the 1520s, the city of Tzintzuntzan had a bustling population between 25,000 and 30,000 people. Now, all that is left is the ceremonial centre of this pre-Hispanic capital city – an area that contains a large plaza; buildings known to house nobility and priests; and five yácatas (semi-circular pyramids) that face over the lake area, each with altars devoted to Purépecha gods.
Where we were standing was actually on a large artificial platform, 450m by 250m, excavated into the side of the Yahuarato hill overlooking Lake Pátzcuaro. The yácata pyramids and other structures rest on this large, flat platform. One of our photos is an aerial photo, that I found and used, that shows the platform and the pyramids. Pretty awesome.
In the indigenous language, Tzintzuntzan, means “the place of the hummingbirds.” While it is true that during the time of the Purepecha Empire that these tiny birds were driven to extinction due to the desirability of their iridescent feathers for use in clothing and jewelry, it is also true that they and dozens of other species of birds can be found in Tzintzuntzan. Plants that attract hummingbirds have been planted on the archaeological site to encourage them to nest there. It would be a great place to go birding.
We went into a small onsite museum to look at some of the artifacts that had been found on the site while it was being excavated - pottery/ceramics, obsidian artifacts, a stone coyote, metal bells and an axe head.
Another wonderful day in Quiroga’s Utopia...
Note - I just found out that in town the best places to view birds is at the Ojo de Agua and the small public embarcadero. The archaeological site with its pine-oak grove is also an excellent birding spot.Read more