Google satellite view of the areas surrounding the excavated structures reveals the outlines of huge numbers of unexcavated ruins extending out in all directions. Even in the excavated areas, there are many mounds which contain large, unrevealed structures. Archeologists have barely scratched the surface. Cantona can reached via the 140D cuota (toll road) in northeast Puebla State. At the exit for Tepeyahualco, head north on a two-lane, black-top road for about 8 km (5 mi). On the map above, the black-top road can be seen in the lower left corner. The well-marked turn-off leads you to the parking lot of the site museum. I recommend checking it out before walking the site. There is an Archeological Zone fee of $60 pesos ($3.20 USD). For a separate fee, local guides can be hired outside the museum. The site is open 7 days a week from 9am-6pm. However, the museum is only open Wednesday-Sunday from 9am-6pm.
ball game was very important to pre-hispanic cultures. No doubt, it had some utility as simple entertainment, but the game's political and religious functions were of far greater importance. The contests were sometimes used to settle internal political disputes, or even conflicts between city-states. On a religious level, the struggle between the two teams represented the duality of the cosmos. The teams were stand-ins for the ongoing struggle between the forces of light and darkness. The entire affair was very ritualized and often members of one team or the other were sacrificed at the end of a game. Whether it was the winners or the losers is a matter of dispute among archeologists, as are the number of players and the exact rules of the game.
Cantona II, the Classic Era
complex network of paved and walled streets. Most were narrow and hemmed in by thick, high walls on either side. The streets don't allow room for more than two men abreast, This was the result of a deliberate and well-thought-out defensive strategy. The purpose was to control the movements of the population, as well as to defend the city by channeling the attacks of enemy warriors into ambushes. Further, the placement of the elite area atop the steep-sided Acropolis is no coincidence. This location provided protection from both internal unrest and external attack. All this enabled Cantona to survive 1,600 years of internal unrest, invasions by the northern barbarians known as Chichimecs, and wars with rival city-states. The period known as Cantona II (50 AD - 600 AD) corresponds the rise of the Teotihuacán Empire, another serious threat that Cantona managed to survive and, ultimately, to outlive.
green stone, a possible import from Guerrero on the Pacific Coast. To its right is a elegant, heart-shaped bowl or tray. Cantona II was a period of great activity and social complexity. Trade with other city-states, including Teotihuacán, grew dramatically. Obsidian was the city's chief resource for trading and the exploitation of the mines grew in size and efficiency.
Xihuacán. The earrings and pendants, carved from conch shells, came from either the Atlantic or Pacific Coasts. Only people of wealth and power wore such adornments. Also present are cylinders made from puma bones. There were once part of staffs carried by people of authority as symbols of their power,
Cantona III, the Epi-Classic Era
similar coup appears to have happened there around 450 AD. Just as had happened in Teotihuacán 150 years before, statues of deities at Cantona were defaced, broken into pieces, and their remains deposited in the ground, along with the staffs of power carried by the priests. The reasons for this regime change are unclear. However, about 100 years before the coup, the climate at Cantona had started to change, leading to a much dryer environment. Perhaps the failure of the priestly class to ensure enough rain for good harvests led to unrest in the population. Modern-day military coups have often occurred during times of economic distress and political turmoil. Another interesting possibility involves the fall of Teotihuacán in 650 AD. Archeologists believe its domination of Mesoamerican trade routes was challenged by rising powers like Cantona, Cacaxtla, and Xochicalco. Perhaps Cantona's warrior caste saw the the priests as standing in the way of an opportunity. If the military men were in charge, they could tighten Cantona's control over the trade routes and squeeze Teotihuacán. Much of pre-hispanic history is like a jigsaw puzzle, showing tantalizing outlines, but with all too many pieces missing.
Cantona IV- Decline and abandonment
drying period began about 500 AD, one result was an increase in Cantona's population. This might, at first, seem surprising. The explanation is that life became increasingly difficult in the outlying rural areas and people sought food and protection in the city. However, this was no short-term drought. The environmental difficulties gradually increased, causing the priestly caste to lose credibility and triggering the military takeover in 600 AD. Cantona's strategic location on the trade routes enabled it to maintain its strength for the next several centuries, but the drying trend continued.
As I stood on the summit of one of Cantona's pyramids, surveying the vast, volcano-dotted desert, I was struck by the silence of this once proud, rich, and bustling place. The poem Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley came to mind:
I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed: And on the pedestal these words appear: ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!' Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.”This concludes the first of several parts on Cantona. I hope you have enjoyed it and, if so, you will leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below or email me directly. If you leave a question in the Comments section, PLEASE leave your email address so that I can respond.
Hasta luego, Jim