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Puerto Vallarta • Riviera Nayarit 

Visit Altavista Petroglyphs Archeological Site in Riviera Nayarit

Richard Lawhorn
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August 31, 2016

Known in Mexico as "La Pila del Rey", "Chacalán", "El Santuario", "Los Petrogl¡fos" or "the Altavista petroglyphs", this is an archeological and scenic attraction near Jaltemba Bay.

More than two thousand years ago an Aztecan tribe, the Tecoxquines, chipped images into the volcanic rock along the arroyo (seasonal stream) Las Piletas. The petroglyphs are believed to be symbolic of the concerns and the yearnings of the people, for health and fertility, the return of the rains, and successful crops. The rock carvings might have been meant as prayers or offerings to the gods responsible for these things.

After the arrival of the Conquistadors in the early 16th century, the twin scourges of disease and forced servitude led to the extinction of the Tecoxquin. Today the site of the petroglyphs holds religious significance for the native Huichol.

Archeologists have located more than 2000 carvings in an area of more than 80 hectares (200 acres); the casual visitor can see seventy or more without too much effort. A series of fifteen signs in Spanish and English are posted along the path, giving some explanation and historical context to the site.

Beyond seeing these artifacts of an ancient society, a visit to the petroglyphs will lead you on a pleasant walk through tropical forest. Perhaps a kilometer from the entrance, you'll reach the most sacred area of this site. See an AIR VIEW. Las Piletas creek flows down over a series of rock shelves and through small pools it has carved over the eons; beside it are high vertical walls of basalt covered with ferns, Philodendrons, and other forest plants. All around and above are native palms, trees with flaking red bark, bromeliads, and other flora of the tropical forest. The greatest concentration of carvings is here.

This is a peaceful, magical place to sit and contemplate, listen to the water flowing over the rocks, watch the butterflies, and wander about.

Near a place of offerings in this beautiful sanctuary stands a Ceiba tree, the most important tree of the Aztecs and the Mayans and other ancient Mesoamerican people; joining all the creatures of earth with the water world below the surface and the world of the gods above.

The petroglyphs are eroded and, in many cases, the rocks they're carved on have cracked or chunks have flaked off. A lot of them can be hard to discern. If you want to see them at their best, avoid midday when the overhead sun will wash out the relief of the carvings.

If you want to visit the site, use the MAP PROVIDED HERE. Keep in mind that this site is still in use for native religious practices. Don't take food or drink with you when you enter.

Come interested, come open to the experience, and come quietly.

1) Altavista

Archeological Petroglyphs site of Altavista known as "La Pila del Rey" located along the Piletas creek on the sides of the Copo volcano. It covers an extension of about 80 hectares where there is one of the biggest concentrations of engraved rocks....

15) Huichol Offerings

The Huichol indians who occasionally visit Altavista originally lived in the mountains of Nayar although in recent years a small group has moved to the Las Varas area. They leave offerings and perform ceremonies here for Nakahue, "our grandmother of fertility," and also for Tatevari, "our grandfather of fire." Some Huichols also travel to the nearby port of Chacala where ancient rock carvings are located and leave offerings to Tatei Aramara, "our mother ocean."

Read the entire story and see all the photos at Richard Lawhorn.

  Learn more about Peyote People

  Learn more about The Huichol Center for Cultural Survival

  Check out Galeria Tanana

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