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Todd Pitezel

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During the Casas Grandes Medio period (A.D. 1200-1450), the places where most people lived were of the simplest kind of settlement. Hundreds of sites, most being small pueblo-like units less than 900 sq m in size, dot northwestern Chihuahua, Mexico, along major and minor valley water courses.

Nevertheless, the Medio period is known for being extravagant and beyond the practical.  For example, Paquimé, the preeminent Medio period capital, is a piece of engineered landscape with domestic, civic, economic, and religious concepts expressed in grand adobe architecture, earthen mounds, a water delivery and disposal system, massive subterranean ovens, and a quantity of shell and a diversity of copper objects unknown anywhere else in northern Mexico or the southwestern United States.

And then there is Cerro de Moctezuma (Moctezuma Hill) with its massive summit installation 400 m above the Casas Grandes river valley.  What is of equal interest there is El Pueblito, a settlement sitting on a mesa 200 m above all of its neighbors in the valleys below.  While everyone else lived in well-watered valleys, then, some apparently did not and, instead, lived high above, having to journey up a hill to reach home.

That should pique anyone’s curiosity. It did mine, so I rented a mule, and with the help of many friends I set out in search of some answers to why people lived on the hill. In the process, I found religion.