These ruins, in a broad valley with panoramas to distant mountains, contain the mazelike adobe remnants of northern Mexico’s most important trading settlement. Paquimé was the center of the Mogollón or Casas Grandes culture, which extended north into New Mexico and Arizona and over most of Chihuahua. The site’s impressive, meticulously detailed Museo de las Culturas del Norte has displays about Paquimé and the linked indigenous cultures of northern Mexico and the southwest USA.
The site was sacked, perhaps by Apaches, around 1340. Excavation and restoration began in the 1950s; Unesco declared it a World Heritage site in 1998. Plaques, in Spanish and English, discuss Paquimé culture while giving fascinating details on the sites like the ceremonial ball court, pit ovens used to make mezcal for important festivals, the dwelling of a curandero (healer) and rituals performed using birds that were bred in the plaza, and a house of skulls with a mobile of skulls hanging from the ceiling of an upper floor. There was also an elaborate canal system that brought water to the community from a spring located 5km to the north.
The Paquimé people were great potters and produced striking cream-colored earthenware with red, brown or black geometric designs; some amazing original examples are on display in the museum, and modern reproductions are for sale.