Cerro de Trincheras
Rock&Gem Magazine|July 2021
Trail, Museum & Petroglyphs South of the Border in Sonora, Mexico
HELEN SERRAS-HERMAN

The Cerro de Trincheras is an extraordinary prehistoric archaeological site located just outside the village of Trincheras in the northwest Mexican state of Sonora. The site opened to the public in December 2011 and includes an interpretive trail and an extensive visitor’s center (museum). The site is under the auspices of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

My husband and I visited the site by taking a day-trip tour south of the border into Mexico (when the border was open before the COVID-19 pandemic), departing from Nogales, Arizona. The tour was organized by Linda Rushton from Ambos Tours of Arizona, based in Nogales, Arizona. We were part of a small group of nine people total. We left Nogales, Arizona, crossed the border into Nogales, Sonora, at 8 a.m., and, after a couple of stops, we reached Trincheras just before noon.

The Cerro de Trincheras site is the remains of 900 hillside terraces with retaining stone walls ranging from 4 inches to 10 feet tall, dating from an early culture between AD 1300 and 1450. “Cerro” in Spanish means hill or mountain, and “trincheras” was the Spanish term for entrenchments or fortifications, as that is what the hillside terraces reminded the early Spanish explorers. The name of this settlement is attributed to Captain Mateo Manje, who accompanied Father Francisco Kino to the Magdalena Valley. The soldier said that they looked like military trenches.

The stone terraces at Cerro de Trincheras were used for agricultural and housing purposes, where prehistoric farmers of the Sonoran Desert lived. The first settlers arrived in the area about 13,000 years ago, and the hunters and gatherers adapted to the Sonoran Desert environment about 10,000 to 8,000 years ago (www.lugares.inah.gob.mex ). The site excavation took place between 1995 and 1996 and was a bi-national effort. Research showed that over 1,000 people lived there, and creating the terraces was a major investment of labor (Cerro de Trincheras, Randall McGuire & Elisa Villalpando, Archeology in Tucson, Winter 1998).

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