Cantona's middle class neighborhoods
densely packed city of 90,000. The point where I took this shot, at the bottom of the ridge that rises up to Cantona's Acropolis, was once a working class neighborhood. The stairway leads up to the middle class and elite areas. A person's social status was roughly equivalent to the altitude of his/her home. At the bottom level, both socially and in terms of terrain, were the working class, the largest group in the population. Higher up the slope lived the middle class, comprised of lower-level priests, warriors, highly skilled artisans, and the merchants. The elite lived on or near the top-level mesa called the Acropolis. They were the high priests, military leaders, nobles owning large estates, and probably the wealthiest merchants. All of the social classes lived in walled compounds. These, along with the narrow streets separating them, made Cantona one of the most defensible cities in Mesoamerica. This may explain its amazing 1,650 year lifespan (600 BC - 1050 AD). Over more than one and a half millennia, Cantona managed to outlast several great empires and multiple invasions from the north by the fierce Chichimec nomads. In the end, Cantona was abandoned because of climate change, not conquest.
used no mortar to secure the stones in their walls and other structures. They simply cut them to size, placed them carefully, and used smaller stones to ensure their stability. Amazingly, some of these structures survived for more than 2,500 years! Again, unlike everywhere else, the stone walls were not covered with lime plaster and then painted with colored designs or murals. Instead, Cantona's architects left the stone surfaces in their natural state. However, to create pleasing decorative effects, the builders arranged different types and colors of stone in contrasting patterns.
3000 man-made terraces to fill in the slopes between the natural ones. The city's 8000 residential units were constructed on these terraces.