The Unknown and Mysterious city of Cantona

By Fernanda Duque Hernández

One of Ancient Mexico’s most majestic cities.

The Mexican states of Puebla and Veracruz share the remains of an ancient metropolis that was one of the largest in the world for its time, even larger than the legendary Teotihuacan at one point. The fortified city of Cantona was abandoned 1,000 years ago and researchers from the University of California’s Berkley campus now think they know why.

According to the evidence, a prolonged period of drought was partly to blame for the deterioration of this Pre-Columbian city between A.D. 900 and A.D. 1050. This conclusion was reached after geographers of the American institution analyzed sediment from a lake located 20 miles from the city’s remains.

According to UC Berkeley associate professor of geography, Roger Byrne, there was a long period of below-average of rainfall, which ended shortly before the rise of the Aztec empire. Counterintuitively, Cantona’s population actually increased during this period, reaching up to 90,000. The reasons for this may have been migration from rural communities in the eastern basin region towards Cantona, most likely in an attempt to escape the hardship caused by the drought. “But when the droughts continued on the scale that they did, the subsistence base for the whole area changed and people just had to leave. The city was abandoned”, Byrne said.

The research team of Berkeley has recently published part of its research in the academic journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They emphasized the cooperation of the scientists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Juriquilla, in the state of Querétaro, as well as the German Research Center for Geosciences.

cantona Mysterious city

Although information on the history of Cantona is still quite scarce, archeologists believe that this metropolis may have been built by Olmec or even Chichimec peoples around 50 A.D. The meaning of the name Cantona itself remains an enigma. It may be a word derived from the Nahuatl caltonal which means “the sun’s house”.

Cantona is considered to be one of the most urbanized metropolises of the pre-Colombian world, with almost 500 streets, 3,000 residential patios and 24 ball game courts associated with religious ceremonies for the fertilization of the earth.

So far only 10% of this ancient metropolis – declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as a World Heritage – is open to the amazement of visitors.

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