Convinced that northern Mexico is not an archaeological desert, nearly 30 specialists from Mexico and Southwest USA met at Paquime Archaeological Site, in Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, to analyze interaction maintained during Prehispanic period by cultures in this region of Mexico. Cultural scopes of places like Ferreria, Durango, Atavista, Zacatecas, and Paquime, testify this.

Organized by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), the Conference of Northern Frontier Archaeology, taking place from October 14th to 16th 2009, has become one of the most important academic forums on the issue. Its 12th edition is a symbol of inter institution

al efforts that, for more than 10 years, have the objective of decentralizing archaeology and revaluate places that were not 100 per cent Mesoamerican.
The meeting taking place in Paquime Cultural Center counts on with the participation of INAH researchers as well as from Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez campus Nuevo Casas Grandes (UACJ) and National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

Elsa Rodriguez Garcia, director of Chihuahua INAH Center, remarked that it is necessary to put Northern Mexico in the national archaeological map.
Without the monumentality of central and southern archaeological zones, there is a great number of sites in the north; in this respect, Eduardo Gamboa Carrera, director of Paquime Cultural Center, declared that in Chihuahua there are registered nearly 2,500 sites, from opencast camps to cliff dwelling spaces such as Cuarenta Casas.

The inauguration counted with the presence of Dagoberto Quintana, Casas Grandes municipality president, and Rene Noriega, director of Nuevo Casas Grandes Campus of UACJ, as well as representatives of the State Government and nearby city halls.

Ball game could have led to Paquime collapse

Paquime Prehispanic city, the only Northern Mexico site inscribed in the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) originated from a sum of migrations, local development, extern influences and successful adaptations to the desert environment, processes that took more than 700 years in the Common Era and collapsed less than a hundred years before Spaniards arrived.

According to archaeologist Eduardo Gamboa, Paquime combines elements from Mesoamerica and from the desert peoples, particularly those who dwelled the actual Southwest of USA.

“This was captured in the ceremonial monticules found here; the town includes ceremonial buildings with birds (macaws and eagles) designs, some of them decapitated; crosses, serpents, as well as 3 places which form is associated to the ball game.

“These temples frame the plazas, hiding its design the mysterious message of its creators; life reproduction, fertility, flowering and death. Paquime was the ceremonial center of Casas Grandes Culture”.

The INAH researcher mentioned that diverse events led this society to integrate to a new religious practice that would later become the reason of its decadence. The elite were in a delicate situation: to adopt a new political religious system and avoid be killed by conquerors, or betray their beliefs and be killed by their people”.

Ballgame courts correspond to a stage after the city’s development –after 1200 AD- and are architectural representations of this intern conflict.

“This led us to think that those who constructed them wanted to play the ritual game at Paquime; we imagine groups devoted to ancient macaw, eagle and other animals’ cult, also related to lineages, obligated to practice a different rite that implied sacrifice”.  

 “While serpents, birds and stars did not have complex ritual implications, the ball game has terrible consequences (ideas of life and death, of underworld beings representing death, and stars representing life) for a Pueblo type organization as Paquime”.

Gamboa Carrera concluded that there are many examples in the history of desert people, even in 17th century, of destruction of entire settlements to avoid contamination of their culture, so Paquime would be no exception.