Who owns Mexican archaeological sites and pyramids?

Have you ever wondered who owns the pyramids in Mexico?

Archaeological sites in Mexico are primarily owned and managed by the government. The preservation, and protection of such sites fall under the jurisdiction of various Mexican governmental agencies and institutions.

The INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History) is one of the key organizations overseeing all archaeological sites and pyramids in Mexico. However, not all archaeological sites in Mexico are owned by the INAH.

INAH is responsible for the research and conservation of the country’s cultural heritage, ensuring the proper maintenance and restoration while making them accessible to the public for educational and cultural purposes.

The ownership and management of archaeological sites in Mexico can vary depending on their historical and cultural significance. INAH plays a central role in protecting and preserving Mexico’s cultural heritage.

If the land where archaeological sites are located is owned by local communities or private individuals, the government collaborates with the owners to ensure the preservation and responsible management of these sites.

Many archaeological sites, structures, and pyramids in Mexico are declared national monuments or cultural heritage sites, affording them legal government protection and oversight by federal and state authorities.

Also, UNESCO’s World Heritage program recognizes several Mexican archaeological sites as World Heritage Sites, further highlighting their global significance and encouraging international cooperation in their preservation.

Archaeological sites owned by INAH

  • Cacaxtla – Tlaxcala
  • Calakmul – Campeche
  • Cantona – Puebla
  • Casas Grandes – Chihuahua
  • Cempoala – Veracruz
  • Chichen Itza – Yucatán
  • Cholula – Puebla
  • Cuyuxquihui – Veracruz
  • El Cedral – Cozumel, Quintana Roo
  • Iximche – Guatemala (managed by INAH’s Guatemalan counterpart)
  • Las Labradas – Sinaloa
  • Mitla – Oaxaca
  • Monte Albán – Oaxaca
  • Palenque – Chiapas
  • Teotihuacán – State of Mexico
  • Tres Zapotes – Veracruz
  • Tulum – Quintana Roo
  • Tzintzuntzan – Michoacán
  • Xochicalco – Morelos

Archaeological sites partially managed by INAH

  • Altavista – Chihuahua (partially managed by INAH)
  • Bonampak – Chiapas (partially managed by INAH)
  • Chacchoben – Quintana Roo (partially managed by INAH)
  • Chalcatzingo – Morelos (partially managed by INAH)
  • Chinkultic – Chiapas (partially managed by INAH)
  • Coba – Quintana Roo (partially managed by the local ejido)
  • Cuetzalan – Puebla (partially managed by INAH)
  • Cueva de las Manos – Baja California Sur (natural caves with rock art)
  • Cuicuilco – Mexico City (partially managed by INAH)
  • Dzibilchaltun – Yucatán (partially managed by INAH)
  • Ek Balam – Yucatán (partially managed by INAH)
  • El Tajín – Veracruz (managed by the state of Veracruz)
  • Grutas de Cacahuamilpa – Guerrero (natural caves with archaeological significance)
  • Huamelulpan – Oaxaca (partially managed by INAH)
  • Izamal – Yucatán (partially managed by INAH)
  • Kabah – Yucatán (partially managed by INAH)
  • La Campana – Nayarit (managed by the state of Nayarit)
  • La Quemada – Zacatecas (partially managed by INAH)
  • La Venta – Tabasco (managed by the state of Tabasco)
  • Malinalco – State of Mexico (managed by the municipality of Malinalco)
  • Tamtoc – San Luis Potosí (partially managed by INAH)
  • Tehuacalco – Guerrero (partially managed by INAH)
  • Templo Mayor – Mexico City (partially managed by INAH)
  • Teotenango – State of Mexico (managed by the municipality of Tenango del Valle)
  • Tlatelolco – Mexico City (managed by the National Autonomous University of Mexico, UNAM)
  • Tlayacapan – Morelos (managed by the state of Morelos)
  • Toniná – Chiapas (partially managed by INAH)
  • Tzintzuntzan – Michoacán (managed by the state of Michoacán)
  • Uxmal – Yucatán (managed by the state of Yucatán)
  • Xel-Ha – Quintana Roo (privately owned eco-archaeological park)
  • Yagul – Oaxaca (partially managed by INAH)

Is it allowed to climb pyramids in Mexico?

Why INAH closed access to the pyramids to the public

Climbing pyramids is prohibited at archaeological sites exclusively owned and managed by the INAH. INAH places restrictions on climbing pyramids at these sites to protect the structures and ensure visitor safety.

What damages archaeological sites?

Human-caused impacts can be intentional or unintentional. Vandals and looters intentionally damage archeological sites and/or remove artifacts. Footsteps or hands brushing across rock faces can have unintentional impacts.

Preserving these ancient structures is crucial to their long-term survival and cultural significance.

Currently, climbing the pyramids in Mexico is strictly prohibited at many archaeological sites across the country due to concerns about preserving these ancient structures from destruction and ensuring visitor safety.

These regulations are in place to preserve the historical and cultural significance of these ancient monuments. Visitors should adhere to these rules and respect the preservation efforts in place at these sites.

Regulations at archaeological sites may change over time, so it’s advisable to check with local authorities or guides for the most up-to-date information regarding climbing restrictions at specific sites and structures.

The safety of visitors is another main reason why climbing the pyramids is prohibited. It helps prevent accidents and ensures that visitors can explore these cultural treasures safely and respectfully.

Selling property with ancient monuments

The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) filed a lawsuit against the unauthorized sale of the archaeological site. The legal process was initiated against the illegal sale of land in the Mexican state of Yucatan.

The promoted property covers an area of 249 hectares and contains the remains of ancient Mayan structures within the archaeological zone of Xkipché, cataloged as a protected site in the Archaeological Atlas of Yucatan.

Located in the Puuc region, Xqipche flourished from the 6th to the 10th century CE and boasts eight main groups of buildings, including a ceremonial center, residential quarters and a stately building often called a “palace”.

The current owners advertised the land in a Facebook group, calling it a “ranch” with “18 paddocks” located just a 10-minute drive from the Uxmal archaeological site, and touting the presence of pyramids within the property.

The owners also noted that the land was subject to a preliminary academic survey between 1990 and 1997, and again from 2002 to 2004, by archaeologists from the University of Bonn in Germany in collaboration with INAH.

The listing shows a price of 18 MXN, which is equivalent to 992,709 USD.

The constitution places such sites under federal ownership. According to Article 27 of Mexico’s heritage laws, moveable and immovable archaeological monuments are national property, nontransferable, and inalienable.

Such advertisement sparked a public outcry on social media and made national headlines, where there were concerns that the sale could set a dangerous precedent for speculation in private deals on archaeological sites.

Such sales potentially jeopardize the country’s cultural heritage. The director of the Yucatan Center INAH confirmed plans to bring criminal charges against landowners for the commercialization of archaeological relics.

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