Discovering the Lost Mexican Civilization of Paquime

The lost Mexican civilization of Paquime in the state of Chihuahua was one of the most advanced in the world during the 14th century, yet very few people have ever heard about it. Why?

I have to admit I didn’t know about it either until I began to look for attractions I could visit during the press trip I was going to do with Chihuahua’s tourism board, yet as soon as I learned about it I knew I had to visit it. Not only was the civilization unknown to me but the pictures I had seen looked spectacular- and I wanted to take some myself.

Ruins of Paquime ruinas

The adobe structures of Paquime that have been uncovered represent only 10% of what is still believed to remain under the surface. In any case just the appearance of these is almost magical.

Paquime is located near the town of Casas Grandes, about 4 hours south of Ciudad Juarez. Fortunately the roads are good but as everywhere in the state going from one place to another takes some time. About 30 minutes into the drive you’ll get the chance to spot on the left side of the road the sand dunes of the only desert in Mexico known as the Samalayuca desert. If you have the time it’s worth pulling over and trying sand-boarding (though make sure you have arranged this before because odds are nobody will be there with the gear).

las ruinas de paquime ruins

I found the adobe structures very similar to constructions found in north Africa

This pre-hispanic settlement is famous for its adobe constructions and T-shaped low doorways that made the inhabitants bow their heads to walk into them- some argue that this was done as a defense method against intruders- as they ducked their heads to get in the could be slammed unconscious. The culture also had a very string tradition on pottery, craftsmanship and breeding of Guacamayas, an exotic bird that was not easily found in this area but they managed to breed and grow to use as a good of trade and decoration.

paquime ceramics

Check the drawings in the background: the clothes of this civilization exposed their genitals at all times- some say that this could be a cause of their peaceful nature, as there was no sexual stress.

Archaeologists are unsure about why this Mexican civilization chose to settle here as the weather is extremely hot and dry during the summer months yet very cold during winter; temperatures can reach -25 C during the coldest months of the year. Perhaps this was the exact reason they chose to settle here, where possible threats by aggressive tribes or cultures would be put off by the inclement weather. However the peaceful settlement would come to an end in the 14th century when warrior tribes massacred the population and the civilization came to an end.

 at paquime

My clothes don’t quite match what the inhabitants used to wear, which I’m sure you appreciate!

Today the archaeological site is a great day visit and the area is ideal to get away from it all for a few days. It is also THE place where to invest in ceramics from Mata Ortiz, a small town put in the world map by famous ceramics artist Juan Quezada (some of his works are sold at 6,000 USD and more!).

museo paquime museum

The entrance to the museum

I enjoyed the visit very much as I was lucky to have expert historian Mayte passionately share her in depth knowledge about this culture with me; she also owns and runs Las Guacamayas Bed & Breakfast, a nearby guesthouse full of character and a fantastic place where to relax and enjoy some personal time. Getting here is relatively easy if you have your own car, otherwise public buses are also available.  If traveling in the area I think it’s well worth taking the time to reach Paquime and learn about this forgotten Mexican civilization, and don’t be surprised if you decide to spend an extra couple of days if only to relax.

Had  you heard about Paquime before? What are your favorite ruins in the world, and which  would you like to visit if given the chance? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below, and this post too if you liked it!

This visit was part of a fam trip I did with the Tourism Board of Chihuahua, but I was not conditioned to write a favorable review.

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