Paquime Archeological Site (Zona Arqueología Paquimé) is about 8 km (5 mi.) w. of Nuevo Casas Grandes on Mex. 37, then about half a mile s.w. of the main square in the old village of Casas Grandes, following signs. Relatively little is known about these shadowy ruins, which make them all the more fascinating.
Paquime emerged early in the 13th century, becoming the largest and most advanced settlement in what is now northern Mexico. These ruins bear the influence of both the Puebloan culture of the American Southwest and the Mesoamerican civilizations of southern Mexico and Central America. Paquimé collapsed sometime during the mid-15th century, about a century before the arrival of the Spanish; drought, warfare that ruined commerce and sacking by a nomadic tribe are all possible causes for its downfall.
Mazelike adobe walls are one of the site's most defining features. Their rounded contours were achieved by laboriously applying the building material a handful at a time. Also distinctive are the T-shaped doorways dotting the terraced building compounds, each of which surrounded a central plaza. Stone aqueducts and reservoirs supplied water for drinking and irrigation, and stone pits were used for roasting agave leaves, a desert plant used to produce the alcoholic drink mescal. Some of the large stone structures had an astrological function.
The site museum (Museo de las Culturas del Norte) has detailed exhibits chronicling Paquimé's connection to both Puebloan and Mesoamerican cultures, with background information in both Spanish and English. The site retains a great air of mystery, inviting speculation as to what life might have been like in its heyday.