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El Tajin Archaeological Ruins

Northern Veracruz, Mexico
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George & Eve DeLange

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'Pyramid Of The Niches'. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
El Tajin's Famous "Pyramid Of The Niches". SW Corner.

Audrey DeLange At  'Pyramid Of The Niches'. West Side. Building 5, Right Background & Structure 12 Right Foreground. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
Audrey DeLange At El Tajin's Famous "Pyramid Of The Niches". West Side
Building 5, Right Background & Structure 12 Right Foreground.

El Tajin Archaeological Ruins Site Map. Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
El Tajin Site Map
From Andrew Coe's,
"Archaeological Mexico."

El Tajin [el tAhEn´] ("thunder") Archaeological Ruins, Veracruz, Mexico: 20°28'N 97°28'W.

Discovered in the late eightennth century, the site derives its name from a modern Totonac belief that 12 old lords of the thunderstorm, known collectively as "Tajín," live among its ruins. According to indigenous maps drawn at the time of the conquest, however, the site was once known as Mictlan, the "abode of the dead".

This site has not been plagued with the tourists as much as Palenque, Chichen Itza, or Tulum. It is still a place where you can feel like you are the only person there. But, we think that will soon change. It already has the crowd of vendors at the front entrance, but they are not as agressive as at Palenque.

We used Andrew Coe's, Archaeological Mexico as a guide book to explore this ruins. We followed his directions as we walked through the site and found that without his help we would have not understood what we were seeing. We strongly recommend that if you go to any of the archaeological sites in Mexico, you should make this book required reading. Then take the book with you as you explore the ruins.

The museum, and restrooms are clean. We were here on January 20, 2004 at about 10:00AM. We needed about four hours to see most of the site. We actually were rather rushed and we would recommend that you plan to spend a full day on the site if possible. If you wish to really explore the site and take lots of pictures we recommend two days. Now that we look back at the tour, we wish that we had done so. We pretty much had the site to ourselves until about noon so we recommend getting there as soon as they open. We carried our own water and light snacks with us because it is a long walk to get back to the entrance where you can purchase food and drink. Also, be sure to use the restroom before going out on the site. It's a long walk back to the restroom area once you are on site.

When we got back to the front entrance after our tour we were entertained by the Totonac dancers performing the Dance of the Voladores (Flying Men). Hanging by their feet from a rope, they spin down from the top of a pole and alight just before crashing into the ground. One man dances on top of the pole which is about a hundred feet in the air. He plays a pipe as he dances. It is beautiful to watch. These men perform to earn a living for their families. We recommend that you pay them if you watch. They collect money before the show.

There are large gaps in El Tajin's chronology. Therefore, archaeologists still have a lot to learn about El Tajin. Archaeologists believe El Tajin became a regional power sometime about 100 A.D. There is not yet any evidence for a large earlier occupation. The region's Preclassic inhabitants were more closely related to the Huastecs of northern Veracruz than to the current Totonacs who were probably Postclassic arrivals.

El Tajin's earliest center was around the Arroyo Group at the southern end of the site (near the entrance). Then from about 300 to 600 A.D. the construction crept north up into the valley and then up onto the ridges to the west. The foundations for the "Pyramid of the Niches" and the "Tajin Chico" area were built at this time. These early building complexes were well planned. As the city became more crowded, later buildings were built wherever there was room among the other structures.

Although there is not any evidence for a large early occupation, archaeologists believe El Tajin became a regional power in about 100 A.D. The region's Preclassic inhabitants were more closely related to the Huastecs of northern Veracruz than to the Totonacs who came to the area during the Postclassic Era. El Tajin reached its apex of power between 900 A.D. to 1100 A.D.

During the 10th century, its ruler was 13 Rabbit, who we see on a series of reliefs carved on the columns found in the "Building of the Columns".

There are 17 ballcourts at the site. Some of the ballcourts may have been for practice, but the South and North Ballcourts were devoted to rituals.

Early Postclassic El Tajin covered about 500 hectares and its population was about 30,000.

Its empire extended along the Veracruz coast. Then by about 1150 A.D.their culture had collapsed and the city was almost abandoned. Archaeologists believe that El Tajin and the surrounding agricultural region could not support the large population.

Then during the Late Postclassic Era of about 1200 A.D. to 1520 A.D., a new people moved into the area of El Tajin. These people were the Totonacs.

OUR TOUR OF THE SITE

We entered the parking lot by driving in from the south. At the north end of the parking lot there is a building complex with shops, a cafeteria, a museum, and the site entrance. The museum contains a few interesting objects, the most important pieces are the stone column reliefs that show 13 Rabbit, the 10th-century ruler of El Tajin, engaged in a ritual sacrifice. There are many vendors at the south and west end or the parking lot.

Most of the ruins are alligned to the north-south axis of a narrow valley. We entered the site by heading north from the main entrance. We passed some small east west structures and then the main path enters the Arroyo Group, which is a large plaza flanked on four sides by large, relatively crudely constructed temples. Archaeologists believe this open space, occupying the city's entrance, was El Tajin’s main marketplace. On the north side of the plaza we could see Building 16, which contains many rows of niches typical of El Tajin. Beyond the plaza's southwestern corner there is an unrestored ballcourt.

The path then exits the plaza's northeastern corner and passes between Ballcourts 13/14 on the left and 17/27 on the right. These are I-shaped with closed ends.

From here, we followed a path which branches left into the site's Central Zone. In this Central Zone we found over a dozen large and small structures.

The path then enters the South Ballcourt, which runs east west between Building 6 to the south and, opposite, the large platform of Building 5. This was probably a ritual ballcourt since it is one long straight court with no walls at the two ends and straight rather than sloping interior walls. Its walls are also decorated with six relief panels that explain the various rituals surrounding the Mesoamerican ball game at El Tajin.

We now return to the ball court’s east side and the front of the large platform immediately to the north. Here we find five structures of varying sizes at the top of the platform; the largest is the central Building 5. Building 5 is a two-stage temple constructed from a low talud topped with a row of niches where the tablero would be and then a long talud rising to the top. Just above the first tier, the base of the central staircase is the site of a V-shaped sculpted column depicting a seated figure with a skull for a head.We could not get close enough to see it very well.

Building 5 faces east over a small plaza containing a raised altar. On the plaza's east side we see Building 15, which is a long platform with two staircases going upward. The north side of this structure almost touches the twin Buildings 3 to the left and 23 to the right. Building 3 is a seven-level pyramid that was painted blue. Building 23 is among the last built at El Tajin, it has five tiers without niches.

Looking to the west side of Building 3 we can see another small plaza. On the far side is the famous "Pyramid of the Niches", also called Building 1. This is El Tajin's most famous building. The "Pyramid of the Niches" rises 20 meters on seven tiers, with a wide staircase rising up its eastern side. This staircase is bordered by a step-and-fret motif; probably representing lightning.

It is said, but not proven, that there are 365 niches in the structure, one for each day of the year. I have over 35 years of experience in astronomy and I could not see 365 niches and other than the fact that the sun could fill the east and west sides of the structure with light near equinox, I can see no other astronomical alignment.

The seven tiers of Building One contain several square niches which number a total of 365. These niches each represent the days of the solar year. This structure may have been a giant calendar. The "Pyramid of the Niches" exterior was originally painted red, while the niches were painted black. The "Pyramid of the Niches" was built on another, far simpler temple that was built during the first phase of the urban center. Various sculptures, including a large royal figure, were found at the foot of the stairs. There are large square blocks along the base which held poles that probably had ritual banners attached to them.

Just south of the "Pyramid of the Niches" stands a low platform running east - west, which was probably a residential complex. A large thatched roof covers a series of small rooms. Around the base of the outer wall runs a long, broken relief which still bears traces of red paint. Straight west we see Building 12, which rises in a two-stage structure similar to Building 5. Its unique feature also is its niches, which are separated from each other by freestanding columns rather than walls.

Upon returning to the plaza in front of the "Pyramid of the Niches", we saw a large, low unrestored mound along its northern border. We then took the path exiting to the right (east) of it, where we entered a larger open space which contains the North Ballcourt. The North Ballcourt was probably for ritual purposes just like the South Ballcourt was. The walls of the North Ballcourt are about 26 meters long and they are decorated with six bas-relief panels, three each on the north and south sides. They are badly worn and only partially legible.

To the west of the North Ballcourt we see a field of large pieces of rock and stucco, perhaps massive paving stones. From here, a path leads up a retaining wall to the terrace that contains the Tajin Chico (Little Tajin). Archaeologists believe this was an elite residential area where Tajin's rulers lived and held court. Tajin Chico has a commanding view over the city's ceremonial center. This terrace uses the valley's natural contours but it is almost totally man-made.

( Our Tour Is Continued On Page Two )

Holiday Inn
POZA RICA AEROPUERTO
KM 6.5 CARRETERA MEXICO TUXPAN TIHUATL N
POZA RICA, 92902 MEXICO

We suggest getting a hotel in the Poza Rica de Hidalgo area and then letting them arrange either a car or a tour of Poza Rica de Hidalgo and/or El Tajin. If you call the hotels Concierge Services ahead of your arrival, all of this can be pre-arranged for you.

We do this all the time, when traveling in Mexico. It is safe and it works!!! We have never experienced a problem doing it this way!

El Tajín International Airport (IATA: PAZ, ICAO: MMPA) is an international airport located near Poza Rica, Veracruz, Mexico. The airport is named after the archeological site of El Tajín. It handles national and international air traffic for the city of Poza Rica. It's operated by Aeropuertos y Servicios Auxiliares, a federal government-owned corporation.

Therefore, we have placed a link to Priceline.com on this page so you can arrange your flights into and out of Poza Rica de Hidalgo, Mexico; as well as your hotel, when visiting this area. We also have links to Holiday Inn.

no one deals like we do! no one deals like we do!

Arroyo Group. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.Pyramid. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
Entering "Arroyo Group"
From South
Looking North,
Building 16 In Background
Pyramid On Left
Is South Boundary
Of The "Arroyo Group."
SE Corner Of
Pyramid On South Side
Of The "Arroyo Group."
Plaza. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.Market. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
Platform & Plaza,
South Of The South Pyramid
Of The "Arroyo Group"
Looking West Toward
South Pyramid
Of The "Arroyo Group."
The "Arroyo Group"
Was A Market Area.
Building 16. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.Building Sixteen. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
Building 16
South Side,
Looking North
Notice Niches
On West Side.
West Side,
Building 16,
Looking East
First Building With Niches.
Structure 17. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.Structure 27. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
Structure 17 &
Structure 27 Ballcourt.
Looking Northeast.
Structure 27 &
Structure 17 Ballcourt.
Looking South
Toward Unidentfied Structure.
Corner Stone Carving. Structure 17 & Structure 27 Ballcourt. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.Corner Stone Carving. Structure 17 & Structure 27 Ballcourt. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
Structure 17 &
Structure 27 Ballcourt.
Corner Stone Carving.
Structure 27 &
Structure 17 Ballcourt.
Corner Stone Carving.
Wall Stone Carving. Structure 17 & Structure 27 Ballcourt. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.Wall Stone Carving. Structure 17 & Structure 27 Ballcourt. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
Structure 17 &
Structure 27 Ballcourt.
Wall Stone Carving.
Structure 17 &
Structure 27 Ballcourt.
Wall Stone Carving.
Corner Stone Carving. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.Corner Stone Carving. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
Structure 17 &
Structure 27 Ballcourt
Corner Stone Carving.
Structure 27 &
Structure 17 Ballcourt
Corner Stone Carving.
Corner Stone Carving. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.Corner Stone Carving. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
Structure 17 &
Structure 27 Ballcourt
Corner Stone Carving.
Structure 27 &
Structure 17 Ballcourt
Corner Stone Carving.
Original Blue Stucco. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.Original Blue Stucco. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
Between Building 3 & Building 23
Original Blue Stucco
Between Building 3 & Building 23
Original Blue Stucco
Structure 13 & Structure 14 Ballcourt. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.Structure 13 & Structure 14 Ballcourt. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
Structure 13 &
Structure 14 Ballcourt
Looking South
Toward Building 16
Structure 13 &
Structure 14 Ballcourt
Looking Southwest
South Ballcourt. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.South Ballcourt. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
South Ballcourt
Looking West
Formed From Sides
Of Buildings 4 and 5
Looking North
From East Edge
Of South Ballcourt
L - Building 5, Middle Building 3,
R - Building 15
South Ballcourt, South Central Relief. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.South Ballcourt, South Central Relief. Puncturing Penis. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
South Ballcourt,
South Central Relief
Rain God Refills Pulque Vat
South Ballcourt,
South Central Relief
Puncturing Penis
Refills Vat (Ouch)!
Rain God. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
South Ballcourt Reliefs,
SW Corner
Player In Bed,
Eagle Dancing
South Ballcourt Reliefs,
NW Corner
Ballplayers Facing Each Other
Tajin Rain God
On Left
Building 15. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.Building of the Columns. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
L-R: Building 15,
Building 3, Building 23
"L-R: Building 15,
Building 3, Building 23
Twin Building 3. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.George DeLange At Twin Building 3. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
Twin Building 3
"Pyramid Of The Niches"
In Background
George DeLange At
Twin Building 3,
Building 23 On Right
Building Five. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.Building 5. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
Building Five
Looking West
Temple Deity Can
Barely Be Seen
Building Five
Looking West
Temple Deity
Located Above
Middle Window
Of Lower Teir
Temple Deity. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.El Tajin Deity. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
V Shaped Statue
Is Possible
Temple Five Deity.
Same V Shaped Statue
Is Also Possibly
El Tajin's Deity.
Building 10. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.George DeLange At Residence Passageway. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
Building 10 East Steps
Residence Just South
Of Building One
Can Be Seen
To The Right.
George DeLange At
Residence Passageway
South Of
Building One.
Structure 12. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.Structure Twelve. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
Structure 12 Is Slightly
Southwest Of
"Pyramid Of The Niches"
Structure 12, Southwest
Of "Pyramid
Of The Niches."
George DeLange At Structure Twelve. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.George DeLange At Structure 12. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
George DeLange At
East Steps Structure Twelve
West Of Residence
George DeLange At
East Top Tier
Structure Twelve,
West Of Residence
Building Of The Niches. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.George DeLange At . El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
Audrey DeLange At
Building Of The Niches."
West Side Building 5,
Right Background
Structure 12
Right Foreground
George DeLange At
Thatch Covered
Residence Platform
South Of "Temple
Of The Niches."
Structure 12
Right Foreground
Audrey DeLange At Residence Platform. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.Stucco Frieze. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
Audrey DeLange
On Small Thatch Covered
Residence Platform South Of
"Temple Of The Niches."
Stucco Frieze
On North Side
Of Platform.
Stucco Frieze. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.Stucco Frieze. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
Stucco Frieze
On Northwest Of Platform
Stucco Frieze
On South West Of Platform
Stucco Frieze. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.Stucco Frieze. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
Detail Of Stucco Frieze
On North West Of Platform.
Stucco Frieze
On North NW
Corner Of Platform.
Pyramid Of The Niches. El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.Mound.  El Tajin Archaeological Ruins, Northern Veracruz, Mexico Travel & Tour Pictures, Photos, Images, Information, Reviews.
Walking North NE
Around The
"Pyramid Of The Niches."
We Come To
A Large Mound
Called "Building Four."
And Patio
East Of Pyramid.
Past "Building 4."
The Large Mound
On Left Looking Back
To The South
North Side Of
"Pyramid Of The Niches."
Retaining Wall To
"Tajin Chico" On Right.

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