Established around 1500 B.C., Chalcatzingo, which means venerated place of sacred water in the Náhuatl language, is an important prehistoric site in central Mexico that initially developed as a small agricultural community. At its height, between 800 and 300 B.C., the area was an important ceremonial center for Olmec culture, evidenced by the surviving temples and stelae that transformed the landscape during that period. The temples and stelae display many religious images, including those that refer to creation mythology. Over time, the effects of cattle grazing, poor drainage, vandalism, looting, and quarrying in the surrounding mountains, caused deterioration of the site. Exposure to the elements has contributed to the erosion of surfaces, marring carvings on the sculpture.
2006 World Monuments Watch
In 2006 World Monuments Fund placed Chalcatzingo on the Watch because of the challenges facing the site. WMF, with assistance from the Butler Fund for the Environment, worked with local partners to complete condition surveys, improve the site’s appearance through careful removal of vegetation encroaching on the historic structures, and erecting protective shelters over parts of the site.
Chalcatzingo is one of the most significant ceremonial centers in central Mexico and is notable for its long period of occupation and extensive collection of sculpture. Knowledge of the importance of the site, however, is still limited and much investigation remains to be undertaken. Conservation of the monuments will assist in increasing public awareness about the historical significance of the site. Chalcatzingo’s architectural and archaeological remains reside in a beautiful setting, making clear its appeal as a destination. The goal of the conservation program was to assure its continuing protection as a cultural site while allowing visitors to appreciate the natural beauty of the region.