El Tajin, Pre-Hispanic City
El Tajin, Pre-Hispanic City
Cultural Mexico Latin America And The Caribbean Etat De Veracruz, MunicipalitéDe Papantla

El Tajin is of great significance in that it is the best preserved and most thoroughly excavated example of a pre-Hispanic town from the period between the Teotihuacan and Mexico-Tenochtitlan empires. It is crucial to an understanding of artistic and socio-economic development in these intervening centuries.

It was previously thought that occupation of the El Tajin pre-Columbian settlement was in three phases, between 100 BC and AD 1200, but recent research has shown that there was only one phase of occupation lasting from 800 to 1200. It dates from the abandonment of the great centre at Teotihuacan and is contemporary with other settlements such as Tula and Xochicalco on the central plateau and Uxmal and Chichen Itza in the Mayan region. The site was abandoned and partly destroyed after 1200 when the region came under the rule of the powerful Mexico-Tenochtitlan kingdom.

The settlement is divided into three areas, each constructed around a number of open spaces (plazas). In Tajin the plazas are rectangular and in Taji Chico they are either trapezoidal or in the form of a Greek fret.

The Tajin complex, defined by two streams and an east wall, is the lowest-lying of three. Its three plazas are surrounded on all sides by monumental structures in the form of pyramids, the most impressive of which is the Pyramid of the Niches. First recorded in 1785, it rises in six steps to a temple at the top. Each storey has rows of square niches, with an overhanging cornice.

Tajin communicates directly with Tajin Chico, which is constructed on an artificial mound 7 m high. Like Tajin it has not been excavated completely;however, the Plaza del Tajin Chico and the buildings round it have been fully excavated and have revealed some interesting details of this part of the complex. Especially noteworthy is Building A, which has smaller buildings at each of its four corners, an unusual feature in pre-Hispanic architecture. It is the most richly decorated building in El Tajin, with vertical bands of relief and key-pattern friezes.

The third area, which is linked with and lies above Tajin Chico, is known as the Group of Columns because of the larger of the two pyramidal structures so far investigated, which has a portico supported on columns, themselves richly decorated with relief sculptures.

The artistic, architectural, and historical importance of El Tajin combines to make this a highly significant site. It has been extensively excavated in recent years and as a result it is probably better understood than many of the more famous pre-Hispanic sites in Mexico.