Complementary Dualities: The Significance of East/West Architectural Difference in Paquimé Page: 1
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Paquime, a pre-Columbian city in Chihuahua, Mexico, flourished between ca.
1250 and 1470 (see Figure 1).1 It was a significant city involved in trading elite goods to
and from current-day Mexico and the United States. Paquime's approximately five-
thousand inhabitants lived in a hierarchical society that controlled a large region beyond
its borders.2 It is a unique center in the Americas, and it was named a UNESCO World
Heritage site in 1998.3 Paquime contains a juxtaposition of contrasting architectural
styles and materials that complement each other and dictate the viewer's movement
through its space. While the entirety of the excavated section is a ceremonial core, it
contains two distinct sides divided by a stone wall and stone-lined reservoirs. The
eastern half consists of puddled adobe buildings that are enclosed, private, interior
structures for storage, residential, manufacturing, and restricted ceremonial purposes.
The western half, on the other hand, is comprised of earthen mounds lined in stone and
covered in plaster.4 These monuments are open, public structures without interior
rooms. The duality inherent in the eastern and western sides of the city is similar to the
painted designs on the pottery from Paquime that embody the same concept of
separate yet complementary sections of a whole. The seemingly opposing binaries that
SWhen referring to the florescence of the city in ca. 1250-1470 AD, I will call it Paquime. The
surrounding region and the towns that existed both prior to and after the Paquime phase are referred to
as Casas Grandes.
2 The population of Paquime is still debated. Archaeologist Stephen Lekson recently estimated
that there were approximately five thousand individuals living in the ceremonial core, but Charles C. Di
Peso, the head archaeologist in the excavations, believed there were three thousand (Stephen Lekson,
The Chaco Meridian (New York: Altamira Press, 1999) 78).
3UNESCO, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, World Heritage
sites are those that are culturally or naturally unique in the world and are of "outstanding universal value"
(http ://wh c. unesco, orq).
The plaster no longer remains on the exterior of the mounds, but traces of it were found during
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Hughes, Delain. Complementary Dualities: The Significance of East/West Architectural Difference in Paquimé, thesis, August 2005; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc4871/m1/7/: accessed July 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .