The Mysterious Round Pyramids of Mexico
Updated: Feb 18, 2019
This is one of those times when taking the less beaten path is a guaranteed win. While the crowd gathers around Cancun and the Mayan Riviera, unexplored treasures await in central Mexico that not even many Mexicans know about. Just north of the city of Teuchitlán, in the state of Jalisco, is an active archeological project uncovering a complex Teuchitlan Tradition society that flourished somewhere between 200 -400 CE. The stunning thing about Guachimontones are its six round pyramids - they are circular ceremonial tributes that are unique to Mexico.
The culture and people to whom they belonged has been lost in time. Over the centuries many stones have been removed, the rest covered by sand and claimed back by wild thorns. An American archeologist, Phil Weigand, discovered the site in 1970 but it was not until 1996 that his campaigning finally opened the door to approved excavations. Since then the pyramids and some surrounding residential housing have been unearthed but many more mounds stand concealed and it is suspected that the site extends much further.
The insignificant gaggle of tourists that do find their way to Guachimontones have not yet proved nuisance enough to forbid entry onto the delicate structures. This allowed me to climb up onto the largest of the pyramids, on top of which I discovered that it was a speaker’s platform as my voice loudly carried over onto a neighbouring pyramid at least 100 meters away.
It is not uncommon to find such designs for acoustics at ancient sites, but always surprising nevertheless as we tend to forget how to live without technology.
It is theorized that people trekked from across the Teuchitlan region to participate in religious ceremonies at this place. Their leader would undoubtedly stand on this very spot to speak to the crowd below and his voice would carry over the same way mine now echoes through the humid air. Presumably he had something more intelligent to proclaim than my well-thought out ‘burrito burrito’. What he would proceed to do on the large stone slab reigning on top of the platform, with a suspiciously hollowed out centre, remains debatable.
Venturing back down, and towards the centre of the complex, I find a large rectangular courtyard which was in fact an ancient ball court. But amazingly it also doubles as a legal court. The games played here were to settle disputes, and the losers would bear the inconvenient punishment of beheading. My tour guide enthusiastically explained that it is highly probable that their heads were displayed on the officiating structures at either end of the court. Given that the game was played using the hip as the sole point of contact with the ball, I can’t help but wonder whether all the surviving males in this society resembled Mesoamerican David Beckham. That or no one dared ever argue with anyone else. But what if the state had a case against someone? Was there a government force of ball players who would hip thrust their way to victory against the common man?
The newly built visitors centre held more information to the site, but no answers to my own personal inquiries. Digging and explorations continue here and hopefully one day we will know the full story behind the rise and fall of this ancient culture, as well as the training regiment of the Mesoamerican Beckham.
Guachimontones stands elevated above the town of Teuchitlán. Looking down into the valley below and the lake Presa la Vega, it is clear why this place was chosen to be the centre of the Teuchitlan Tradition. On a clear day, the world is visible and at your fingertips from this mountainous throne. Perhaps that is why these ancients played so insouciantly with human lives, while looking down onto the world beneath.
HOW TO GET THERE ON GOOGLE MAPS
Address: Carretera Estatal 604 Guadalajara-San Marcos, Gral. Lucio Blanco, 46762 Teuchitlán, Jal., Mexico