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Photographer's Note

EL TAJIN was the site of one of the largest and most important cities of the Classic era of Mesoamerica.

The city flourished from 600 to 1200 C.E. and during this time numerous temples, palaces, Mesoamerican ballcourts and pyramids.

It is unclear who built the city. Some argue in favor of the Totonacs and the Xapaneca; however, there is a significant amount of evidence that the area was populated by the Huastec at the time the settlement was founded. As with so many things in precolumbian history, we just don't know!

From the time the city fell in 1230 to near the end of the 18th century, no European seems to have known of its existence, until in 1785 a government inspector chanced upon the Pyramid of the Niches, the site's best-known monument.

This pyramid has seven stories. Each of these consists of a sloping base wall called a talud and a vertical wall called a tablero, which was fairly common in Mesoamerica. What is unusual about this construction and others in the city are the addition of decorative niches.

The niches on the original structure, not counting those on the later stairway, total 365, the solar year. The ritual function of the building is not primarily calendaric. The deep niches imitate caves, which long have been considered to be passageways to the underworld.

As last as the mid 20th century, remains of beeswax candles could be found left on the first level of this pyramid. There is a popular belief that each niche contained an idol or effigy.

The most important part of the structure was the temple that was on top of this pyramid; however, this was completely destroyed and little is known about what it might have looked like.

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El Tajin lies in the north of Veracruz state near the pleasant town of Papantla, not far from the Gulf of Mexico. We spent a great afternoon just wandering around at the site.

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Additional Photos by Benny Verbercht (BennyV) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1541 W: 34 N: 2212] (13546)
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