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Huandacareo, Michoacan Mexico

Tarascan Site of Huacandareo


Circular structure at Huacandareo, Michoacan, Mexico

Circular structure at Huacandareo, Michoacan, Mexico


Huacandareo is an archaeological site in the basin of the lake Cuitzeo, in north central Mexico. Its main occupation spanned from the 12th to the beginning of the 16th century. It was located in an important natural corridor between Central and Western Mexico, and for much of the Postclassic period it was part of the Tarascan empire.

Its name, in the Purépecha language, the language and local name of the Tarascan people, means “court” and its location is considered a sign of the political and strategic importance of the settlement in controlling this area of the empire, along a natural communication route between the Tarascan and the Aztecs of Central Mexico.

The site is important for being one of the few Mesoamerican sites where metal objects have been found in large quantities and in their original contexts. Objects in bronze, copper, silver and gold included bells, rings, pendants, and pins, along with tools and weapons. these were mainly associated with upper class living and burial contexts.

Site Layout

Huandacareo lies across a smooth slope, which was partially remodeled with terraces and drainage canals.

The site is famous for its sunken plazas as well as for the typical Tarascan buildings called yacata, which are platforms that combined a rounded and a rectangular shape and were usually temple and burial places.

Even if earlier constructive phases have been detected, the main buildings pertain to the Late Postclassic period connected with the Tarascan dominance. The explored and visible part of the site pertainds to the civic-administrative center, while the dwelling area probably lay under the modern settlement.

Artifacts at Huandacareo

Six burial chamber have been identified with offering ranging from clay bowls, pipes, green and grey obsidian tools, shell beads, figurines and other everyday items such as metates and manos.

Other precious materials include lapidary works on turquoise and green stone, and worked shells from the Pacific ocean.

History of Huandacareo

The site is mentoned in Colonial documents which attested that Huacandareo fell under the Tarascan rule about 300 years before the arrival of the Europeans.


This glossary entry is a part of the About.com guide to Central Mexico, and the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Adams, Richard E. W., 1991, Prehistoric Mesoamerica. Third Edition. University of Oklaoma Press, Norman.

Willimans, Eduardo, 2001, Huandacareo, in Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America: An Encyclopedia, edited by Susan Evans and David Webster. Garland Publishing, pp: 348-349.


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