In the mid-1560s Spanish explorers marched northward through Mexico to the farthest northern reaches of the Spanish empire in Latin America. They beheld an impressive site known as Casas Grandes in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Row upon row of walls featured houses and plazas of what was once a large population center, now deserted. Called Casas Grandes (Spanish for "large houses") but also known as Paquimé, the prehistoric archaeological site may have been one of the first that Spanish explorers encountered. The Ibarra expedition, occurring perhaps no more than a hundred years after the site was abandoned, contained a chronicler named Baltasar de Obregón, who gave to posterity the first description of Paquimé:
". . . many houses of great size, strength, and height . . . six and seven stories, with towers and walls like fortresses for protection and defense against the enemies who undoubtedly used to make war on its inhabitants . . . large and magnificent patios paved with enormous and beautiful stones resembling jasper . . ."
Casas Grandes, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is under the purview of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, which oversees a world-class museum near the ruins. Paquimé visitors can learn about the site's history and its excavations, which were conducted under the pioneering research of Charles Di Peso and Eduardo Contreras Sánchez and their colleagues from INAH and the Amerind Foundation.
Based on a half century of modern research since the Joint Casas Grandes Project, this book explores the recent discoveries about important site and its neighbors. Drawing the expertise of fourteen scholars from the United States, Mexico, and Canada, who have long worked in the region, the chapters revel new insights about Paquimé and its influence, bringing this fascinating place and its story to light.