The archaeological site at Cuahilama was occupied by numerous Pre-classical peoples, among them Cuicuilco, Copilco and Tlatilco groups. The area is believed to have been first settled by the Xochimilca Lord, Acatonalli around 1265. Most of the petroglyphs visible in the area are believed to have been carved between 1450 and 1521.
An agricultural people, they survived by using the chinampa system of building plots over the water and grew chiles, beans, and squash, as well as corn, naturally. Cuahilama, a Náhuatl word meaning “head of an old woman” served as an observatory, a shrine, and as a causeway running east – west and providing access to the top of the hill. Here what was likely a ceremonial area was located next to terraced agricultural plots. Residential districts covered much of the area and as did a military training area.
The present site is most famous for the petroglyphs on the hillsides and surrounding slopes. These express Xochimilcas´ cosmological and world views, and have been attributed to ceremonial functions and deity veneration. Among those visible today are the following.
- Papalotl – the Butterfly.
- Ocelotl – Jaguar (pictured above) – the 14th day of the solar calendar month and a symbol of war.
- Ollín Nahui – the fourth movement of the sun.
- Huetzalin – the Priest said to have guided the Xochimilca people from Tula.
- Ze Cipactli – a Crocodile corresponding to the first day of the Mesoamerican calendar.
- Itzpapalotl– Fire Butterfly – symbolizing poetry, song and dance, and taken as symbol of the Sun.
- Xonecuitl – a Curled Foot, representing the Milky Way, and linked to war and sacrifice.
- Huacalxochitl – The sacred plant of the Xochimilca people, it was used to fight infections, and important for ritual ceremonies.
- Acocoxochitl – the Dahlia Flower, the Náhuatl name means hollow stem filed with water flower. With ornamental, nutritional, medicinal, and ceremonial uses, it’s considered the Mexican national flower.
- Yoloxochitl – Magnolia Flower.
- Nahualapa – a stone map of Xochimilco Lake and 56 water springs, eight buildings and multiple footpaths.
- Ocelocóhuatl – the Snake Woman, a goddess of motherhood and fertility.
- Yaoquizqui – the Warrior.
See the Xochmilico Map for ideas on getting there. A taxi ride from most boat launches is usually less than ten minutes.