Ancient Chalcatzingo Project
A Mesoamerican Middle Formative Period Civic-Ceremonial Center in Morelos, Mexico

The archaeological site of Chalcatzingo, in Morelos, Mexico, contains one of the most extensive collections of Middle Formative period (c. 900-500 BC) bas-relief stone sculpture outside of the Olmec Gulf Coast lowlands. The current corpus of 44 carved monuments illustrates a developmental sequence that began with symbolic elements and evolved into elite ideological expressions of rulership, power, and authority. These monuments are being three-dimensionally recorded and modeled and openly shared for use by researchers, students, educators, and others. The accuracy and high definition of the resulting measurable and interactive visualizations allows for intensive study and analysis, while minimizing subjectivity. The site and its monoliths are also critically imperiled and have been placed on the World Monuments Fund most endangered list.
Chalcatzingo's carved monuments have been linked stylistically, compositionally, and contextually to other sculptures created across Mesoamerica during the Middle Formative period. Eighty years of investigation at the site has produced a solid contextual and chronological foundation, a combination that offers an opportunity for both an intra-site and inter-site examination of monumental sculpture and their spatial distribution. Through the application of empirical and measurable evidence, testable models are being built to address key issues of interregional interactions and sociopolitical transformations. Application of developing computer visioning and pattern recognition software programs to the iconographic content and spatial characteristics will permit the identification and quantification of symbolic and contextual similarities and dissimilarities that existed within and between sculptures at sites across the Middle Formative period interaction sphere.
Credit: We are grateful for the consent of Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) and the cooperation and collaboration of archaeologists Mario Córdova, Chalcatzingo Site Director, and principal INAH investigator Carolina Meza. We also want to express our appreciation to archaeologist Omar Espinosa and the staff members of the Proyecto Chalcatzingo whose assistance was invaluable to our success. Funding was provided in part by a University of South Florida Senate Research Council's Proposal Enhancement Grant.
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