• Environment and Geography

    This culture’s territory was located in what is now the far north of Mexico, in the area of the states of Jalisco, Nayarit, Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, and particularly Guanajuato. The region comprises three types of natural landscape: plateaus, volcanic mountain ranges, and grasslands. The grasslands are semi-tropical while the other areas have a temperate climate.

  • Economy and Technology

    The Chupícuaro economy was based on growing maize, beans, and gourds on suitable land close to riverbanks and on nearby hills. They complemented these activities with hunting, gathering, and fishing. Artifacts related to their resource use include obsidian arrowheads, maize crushing stones, and grinders.

  • Art

    The Chupícuaro produced polished ceramics decorated mainly with black and cream geometrical designs on a red background. The ceramic forms they made include bowls with conical bases, dishes, and some bottles with stirrup handles. Multicolored human figurines were also made and decorated with the same designs used on their dishes, with barely discernable facial features. The best known Chupícuaro female figurines are the “diagonal eyed” figures, which were occasionally painted in vivid colors but usually left unpainted and finely decorated with appliqués of clay and clay slip. These figures are mostly represented nude and with clearly female anatomy, but some pieces are wearing elaborate headdresses and clothing, and all sport unique hairstyles and body decorations. The figurines date from the last stage of the ancient tradition of female representations that began with the Tlatilco culture. The Chupícuaro also produced ceramic flutes, ocarinas, and earpieces, and used bone and seashell to make a wide variety of ornaments.

  • Social Organization

    Few details of Chupícuaro social organization are known, but it is believed that individuals had specialized roles in production, given their mixed economy and their highly developed ceramic tradition.

  • Beliefs and Funerary Practices

    The Chupícuaro buried their dead in simple tombs that were 1.5-2 meters deep. The bodies were laid out on their backs and in no fixed orientation, although graves are often found around tecuiles or fire sites. Other earlier gravesites are marked with balls of rock. Abundant offerings are found near the graves, including ceramic items, figurines, and jade ornaments. In some cases, dogs were carefully buried alongside the deceased, perhaps in order to guide their owners to the next world. Urn burials ascribed to the Chupícuaro have also been found, as well as uncontextualized decapitated skulls, which has been interpreted as evidence of headhunting.

  • Settlement Pattern

    The Chupícuaro settled in permanent villages, where they built homes on platforms with stone facing and packed earth floors. They sometimes formed groups of dwellings that can be discerned today as lines of stones. No temple structures have been found, but there is evidence at the site of Tlatilco of an earthen platform that may have served as the base of a Chupícuaro temple, a pyramid made of some material that has since perished. This temple would have shared space with a group of residences also made from perishable materials.

  • History

    The Chupícuaro culture had its origins in the Ticomán culture, but emerged in the late pre-classical and early classical periods. Its ceramic tradition is related to those of El Arbolillo and Zacatenco, and the use of the stirrup handle has led to speculation that they may have been connected to Northern Peruvian cultures, in which this style of ceramic handle was common.