Sunday, June 8, 2008

Taxco and Xochicalco - see part 6

This past Saturday and Sunday we had our first overnight excursion. We left early Saturday morning for the silver mining town of Taxco. As you can see from the slideshow, Taxco is a small community built on the side of a mountain. The streets are tight and very steep, yet its cobblestone paved streets make climbing a bit more bearable. As Taxo is famous for silver (supplying a great majority of all the silver imported to the United States) this small town boasts over 500 shops that showcase a wide variety of silver products; even saddles adorned with silver throughout and sewn with silver thread.

One day a week (Saturday) there is an artisan market at the lower part of Taxco. Here, venders and artisans sell their silver crafts (mainly jewelry) for rock bottom prices. When you purchase a silver product the price is based on the weight of the piece, which is weighed right in front of you. The silver market is controlled tightly by Mexican authorities so grades of silver usually range between .925 and .950 (.999 being pure silver, but such a pure grade would be too soft for most products). .925 grade silver is what is typically found in U.S. jewelry stores.

We stayed in an old monastery that was converted years ago to an inn. It was called Los Arcos Inn and was very charming and relaxing. In fact, on the roof you could gaze down over most of Taxco. As you can see from the slide show, the Arcos Inn was a delight and quite cheap if you would ever like to visit ($50.00 US per night)

The next day we set out for another city of pyramids called Xochicalco. Let me say right off that NOT all pyramids are the same, so please take a look at the slide show and note the difference between this excursion and some of the others we've experienced. One of the more interesting aspects of Xochicalco was of course its location, as you can see, but also because it had three courts where they would play a type of a ball game, an observatory and steam baths.

Dr. Zane U. Segle

For further details I have added a narrative to explain more in detail about Xochicalco:

Xochicalco is a pre-Columbian archaeological site in the western part of the Mexican state of Morelos. The name "Xochicalco" means "in the house of Flowers" in the Nahuatl language. The site is located 38 km southwest of Cuernavaca, about 76 miles by road from Mexico City. The site is open to visitors all week, from 10am to 5pm, although access to the observatory is only allowed after noon. The apogee of Xochicalco came after the fall of Teotihuacán and it has been speculated that Xochicalco played a part in the fall of the Teotihuacano empire.

The architecture and iconography shows affinities with Teotihuacan, the Maya area, and the Matlatzinca culture of the Toluca Valley. Today some residents of the villages closest to the ruins of Xochicalco such as Cuentepec and Tetlama in eastern Morelos speak Nahuatl.

The main ceremonial center is atop an artificially leveled hill, with remains of residential structures, mostly unexcavated, on long terraces covering the slopes.

The site was occupied by 200 BC, with the most notable architecture built between about 700 and 1000 AD. At its peak, the city may have had a population of up to 20,000 people.

Of special interest are sculptured reliefs on the sides of some buildings. The Temple of the Feathered Serpent has fine stylized depictions of that deity in a style which includes apparent influences of Teotihuacan and Maya art. It has been speculated that Xochicalco may have had a community of artists from other parts of Mesoamerica.

Other monuments at the site include several other step-pyramid temples, palaces, three ballcourts, sweat-baths, an unusual row of circular altars, and a cave with steps carved down into it. The site also has some free-standing sculptured stelae; others were removed from their original location and are now on display in the INAH museum in Mexico City and at the site museum.

-Source -

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