The archaeological site of La Quemada is located 56 km (35 mi) south of the city of Zacatecas, on highway No.54 to Guadalajara. towards the town of Guadalupe Chicomostoc, in the Municipality of Villanueva.
La Quemada, which means ‘The Burning,’ is unique as an archaeological area of the Mesoamerican sites because of its mosaics. In 1615, Fray Juan Torquemada identified it as one of the places visited by the Aztecs in their migration to the basin of Mexico, where they left their elderly and children. In 1780, historian and religious personage Clavijero Chicomostoc, associated this place as where the Aztecs stayed for nine years during their trip to the Valley of Anahuac. This speculation led to the popular tradition that identifies La Quemada with the mythical place called La Siete Cuevas.”
Research at the site revealed that it was an important part of the cultural development in Mesoamerica, whose nucleus was the city of Teotihuacan (100 to 650-700 A.D.). Archeological excavations in the area during the eighties revealed that La Quemada developed between 300 and 1200 A.D.
Located in a vast plain, La Quemada or Tuitlán-which up until not long ago was known as Chicomostoc- is recognized for its many ruins that cover and surround the northwest, northeast and south summits of the Cerro de los Edificios. The site is divided into four main sections, most notably "The Acropolis" and "The Citadel".
The area of the Acropolis consists of six levels. It is accessed by a paved road that is 35 meters wide (115 ft) and 400 m (437 yds) long known as the "Calzada Mayor". From this plaza you can see the most impressive architectural structures in the area.
- First level: With 67 m (220 ft) of length and 64 m (210 ft) of width, is the prelude to the "Hall of Columns," a space measuring 40 m (131 ft) by 32 m (105 ft) surrounded by walls of 3 m (9 ft) in height and 2.70 m (8.8 ft) thick, where eleven round columns 5m (16.4 ft) high can be seen which were once the supports of a broad roof, that is since missing after a fire.
- Second Level: At this level we find the "Ball Court", a Mesoamerican type structure built on a huge elevation to the north, on which also stands a building over 10m (33 ft) in height: the "Votive Pyramid". Traces of a staircase were found on its southern side, leaving one to assume that it led to the top where perhaps was a temple.
- Third level: At about 30 m (98 ft) from the "Votive Pyramid" stands a monumental staircase of 75 steps, reaching a height of over 20 m (67 ft). This is the "Grand Solar Staircase" which connects to a path that leads to a couple of stairways of smaller dimensions.
In and around this area on the west flank of the hill, recent work has revealed the existence of 25 residential areas built around the year 650 A.D.
- Fourth Level: Located 20 m (67 ft) above the esplanade of the third level, this area holds the architectural ensemble called the "Plaza de los Maestros", which is a vast space with a central altar defined by a platform on which rooms were built. In the east direction, there is another famous grouping called "El Cuartel".
- Fifth Level: Here is the "Plaza of Sacrifices," which is characterized by a sunken plaza, the central altar, and a pyramidal 5 body base.
- Sixth Level: This is another broad platform that surrounds the bottom of the outcrop of rock that covers the whole area of "The Acropolis". Towards the north side of the outcrop, a sunken plaza is located which joins to the paved road known as the "Calzada Solar" that leads directly to astronomical grouping "The Citadel".
The Citadel or Muralla:
The section of the Citadel is a group of buildings used for defense and ceremony, which apparently was built towards the end of the occupation of La Quemada.
Its access is via the north side of the hill. Its name refers to both, the 4 meter ( 13 ft) high and 4 meter (13 ft) thick wall surrounding its surface, and to its location on the cliff that surrounds the north and northeast parts of the area.
"The Citadel" is also known for being an area of astronomy, because just a short distance from the altar, a gnomon or sundial was found. In the far east of the square the buried remains of an individual were discovered that were accompanied with several offerings: a pot, four cups placed toward the cardinal points, and a mirror decorated with a turquoise and especularita (a variety of hematite) mosaic.
La Quemada Site Museum:
The Site Museum and Services Unit of La Quemada was built between 1993 to 1995, with the participation of the Zacatecas state government, the Secretary of Tourism and the National Council for Culture and the Arts, through the National Institute of Anthropology and History.
Located within the archaeological site, its architectural design was conceived in a way that would integrate it into the natural landscape and environment by the use of material that is characteristic of the buildings that are erected in the area (flagstone, stucco and flat). The museum gives an overview of the archaeological developments in the region through various pieces of information, a scale model of the site, and descriptive videos of the main prehispanic towns in Zacatecas: Loma San Gabriel, Chalchihuites and La Quemada.
Open daily from 10:00 to 5:00 pm.