Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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from the trenches
Destination Volume 60 Number 5, September/October 2007

We asked pioneering archaeoastronomer Anthony Aveni of Colgate University to name his favorite overlooked site:

(Courtesy Humberto Medina Gonzalez)

Alta Vista, or Chalchihuites, in the Mexican state of Zacatecas, gets my nod. A Teotihuacán ceremonial center right on the Tropic of Cancer, it was occupied from A.D. 315 to about 1050. It has a number of astronomically important features, including petroglyphs, a processional walkway, and the dramatic "Hall of Columns." At noon on the summer solstice the sun stands directly overhead.

I always thought of it as one of the best cases for astronomical alignments at an archaeological site, but unfortunately people don't visit it very often. It's in northwest Mexico, which is very hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter. It's an impressive place, sitting lonely on the badlands about four miles east of the town of Chalchihuites. It's also not far from the colonial town of Zacatecas, which has a beautiful cathedral.

Alta Vista is a small site, not like the massive Teotihuacán, but I have always thought it was a cool place.

© 2007 by the Archaeological Institute of America