La Laguna, Tlaxcala: The Archaeology of a Formative Period Central Mexican Town.


The La Laguna site sits on the continental divide in northern Tlaxcala.  The scenic landscape of this region features towering volcanoes and a mild, highland climate—with wet summers and dry winters.  Northern Tlaxcala is part of a natural transportation corridor connecting high-elevation central Mexico (c. 2500 masl) with the coastal lowlands around the Gulf of Mexico.  Pre-Hispanic peoples of the region, including the occupants of La Laguna, were active participants in interregional cultural and economic exchanges between the highlands and lowlands.  Carballo and Pluckhan (2007) present a GIS analysis of the northern Tlaxcalan transportation corridor and the regional settlement changes that occurred here throughout the pre-Hispanic sequence (1200 B.C. – A.D. 1519).

Location of La Laguna with select archaeological sites and modern cities.  Satellite image (LANDSAT ETM+) source: Global Land Cover Facility (


Investigations were undertaken at La Laguna by several researchers prior to the PALL.  Dean Snow (1966, 1969) first documented the site in the archaeological literature as part of a settlement survey that included the surface collection of artifacts.  His Laguna ceramic type was named for the site and is diagnostic of the Formative occupation in the region.  The site was also documented in the larger survey directed by Ángel García Cook and Beatríz Leonor Merino Carrión (published in Merino Carrión 1989).  Roberto Bravo Castillo, of the Centro INAH-Tlaxcala, mapped the central mounds at the site in 2002.  Excavations were first initiated at La Laguna by Aleksander Borejsza and Isabel Rodríguez López (Borejsza 2006; Borejsza et al 2008), who focused on its land-use history as part of the UCLA Formative Apizaco Project directed by Richard Lesure.  David Carballo mapped the site to the limits of its Formative period occupation—assisted by Jason De León, Paloma Diez de Solano, and Nezahualcoyotl Xiuhtecutli—and began excavations in domestic areas during the UCLA project.  The 3D perspective map of the site on this page shows how the ceremonial core is situated within the saddle between three surrounding hills.  Due to dense colluvial deposits at the site, only the tallest structures are visible from the surface and are represented on the map.  All others must be discovered through excavation or remote sensing, as we have been doing during the PALL. 


View of La Laguna from one of its three surrounding hills.  The ceremonial core is located in the center of the photo.  Photo by Nicole Ortmann.


PALL excavation areas listed on the map are summarized in the sections under the research link.  Intensive excavations at residences were undertaken during the 2005 and 2006 seasons, giving us an understanding of what daily life was like for inhabitants of different social statuses.  Luis Barba and researchers from Mexico’s National University (UNAM) began collaborating on remote-sensing and floor-chemistry studies in the site’s ceremonial center in 2008, which continue to the present.  Please browse more detailed synopses of PALL field seasons and follow the 2010 excavations through our blog.


3D rendering map of La Laguna.  Architectural reconstructions of largest structures are based on limited surface visibility and excavations to date.


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