Cuicuilco (Image: RobAn~commonswiki)

The Cuicuilco Pyramid and Fingerprints of the Gods

I have frequently posted a review that I did of Fingerprints of the Gods by Mr. Graham Hancock.  In response to one time that I posted this review, Mr. Charlie Moody  ( replied to complain about me being an arrogant you-know-what for simply pointing out the numerous factual errors and omissions on the part of Mr. Hancock    in his book.  He complained about archaeologists also ignoring any data that contradicted “conventional” theories about the origin of the Sphinx in Egypt and the “Pyramid” of Cuicuilco, Mexico City.    

The below post appeared in the thread, “Re: A Review of a Review of Fingerprints of the Gods,” in message  <  on July 4, 1995 in the alt.archaeology, sci.archaeology, and newsgroups.    

Re: A Review of a Review of Fingerprints of the Gods

On Tue, 2 Jul 1996 17:36:21 -0600, Charlie Moody ( wrote:

< On Wed, 26 June 1996 20:55:13 -0600, Heinrich wrote:
:Fingerprints of the Gods… (Comm. Office) wrote:  
The following is from the July 96 McLuhan Project post.

< Having read and written numerous posts on this book,  I have to disagree entirely with this person on this book. Also, I find some complaints about archaeologists, i.e. the case of the “Pyramid” of Cuicuilco, Mexico City, which given in detail below, to be based on false claims and data.

 …material about the Sphinx in Egypt omitted….

Mr. Charlie Moody complained:
<  The problem is, who gets to say what’s valid?  Apparently,  the pantheon of Egyptology insists that authoritative  geological opinion regarding the condition & probable age  of the Sphinx isn’t valid.  

As I have gone over in detail in previous post, the age of the Sphinx as claimed by West and Schoch is a matter of considerable debate between an archaeologist, a writer, and a paleontologist and other archaeologists and archaeological geologists.  The interpretation of your so-called *authoritative geological evidence* is at best ambiguous and at worst incorrect. Your claim ignores numerous papers that present contrary interpretations of the data.  Like Dr. West, Mr. Hancock, and Mr. Bauval, you ignore any scientific research that contradicts in your arguments instead of noting that the research exists and explaining what the flaws in their arguments are.  (References are given in an appendix at the end of this post).  

< Apparently, specialists in MesoAmerican archaeology are  untroubled by the paradox of proclaiming an earthwork to  be 2000 years old…an earthwork partially covered by a lava  flow which geologists have determined to be 8000 years  old.

This claim misrepresents the facts and consists of material incorrectly cited from primary sources.  Anybody who took the time to go back to the original references concerning this archaeological site, the “Pyramid” of Cuicuilco, which lies on the southern edge of Mexico City, D.F., would find that archaeologists, not geologists, claimed that the sediments below the lava flow, not the lava flow, dated to 8000 BP (6050 BC).  Because these claims were made before the invention of radiocarbon dating, archaeologists, Cummings (1923, 1933), estimated, but not dated, the age of sediments lying below the Xitli lava flows, but covering the base of the “pyramid,” to be 8500 of 30,000 BP (6550 to 28,050 BC).  Later, numerous radiocarbon dates clearly demonstrated that these sediments are only as old as 2200 BP (250 BC) at their base (Fergusson and Libby 1963).  Furthermore, the Xitli lava flows had never been dated to 8000 BP (6050 BC).  Formerly, the lava flow had been considered to be younger than 2400 BP (450 BC), but is now considered to date to about 1540 BP (410 AD)(Cordova et al. 1994, Libby 1955).  Finally, radiocarbon dates and distinctive pottery from mounds associated with the “Pyramid” of Cuicuilco, and found buried beneath the Xitli lava flows by quarrying operations, date the initial construction of the “pyramid” to be between 2750 to 2550 BP (800 to 600 BC), later remodeling until about 2150 BP (200 BC), and total abandonment before 1800 BP (150 AD)(Cordova et al. 1994, Heizer and Bennyhoff 1958, 1972).  Mr. Moody, Mr. Hancock, and Dr. Hapgood somehow all manage to miss numerous radiocarbon dates and pottery data that clearly show the “Pyramid” of Cuicuilco is at most as old as 2750 to 2550 BP (800 to 600 BC).  Neither it nor the Xitli lava flows that partially cover it are anywhere near as old as 8000 BP (6050 BC).

Origin of the 8000 BP date

I could find absolutely no primary references that claim that the Xitli lava flows that surround the “Pyramid” of Cuicuilco are 8,000 years old.  Even Hapgood (1966, pp. 201- 204), the likely source of this claim concedes that these lava flows are only about 2000 years old.  The source of this claim is likely a garbled estimate, not date, made by Cummings (1933) prior to the development of radiocarbon dating.

As Hapgood (1966) states:  

“Cummings made an estimate of the time required  to accumulate the eighteen feet of sediment between  the underside of the Pedrigal and the temple  pavement.  He estimated, first, the age of the Pedrigal  lava flow at 2,000 years, and here came very close to  the truth.  Then he measured the thickness of the  sediments that have accumulated on the top of the  Pedrigal since it was formed, and used this as a  measuring stick to estimate the time required to  accumulate the sediments below.  He came to an  estimate of 6,500 years for the time required to  accumulate these eighteen feet of sediments.”

Note: Pedrigal lava flow is an old name for Xitli lava flows.

As later radiocarbon dates of Fergusson and Libby (1963) and Cordova et al. (1994) prove the age estimate made by Cummings for the estimated 8,500 BP age of the sediments covering the base of the “Pyramid” of Cuicuilco is completely wrong.  The problem is that rivers do not deposit sediment in consistent annual increments.  Instead long periods of nondeposition are interrupted by major floods or changes in base level that can cause several feet of sediment to accumulate at irregular intervals.  Radiocarbon dates listed by Fergusson (1963) clearly show that the base of these sediments at a depth of 21.5 feet date to about 2200 BP (250 BC).  Even Hapgood (1966, pp. 204) comes to this same conclusion, however reluctantly.  There is a clear lack of any evidence for either the Xitli (Pedrigal) lava flows or the underlying pottery-bearing sediments being as old as 8000 BP (6050 BC).  Thus, the claim that these lava flows are 8000 BP (6050 BC) consists of pure fiction unsupported by any evidence or primary source.


To repeat Mr. Moody’s complaint:

<Apparently, specialists in MesoAmerican archaeology are untroubled by the paradox of proclaiming an earthwork to be 2000 years old…an earthwork partially covered by a lava flow which geologists have determined to be 8000 years old.

The reason that specialists in MesoAmerican archaeology are untroubled by this paradox is because this paradox does not exit.  It is a falsehood created by people who failed to make the effort to do an adequate literature review concerning the age of the Xitli lava flows and the “Pyramid” of Cuicuilco.  What is troubling and revealing about these claims is that a basic review of the published literature, even Hapgood (1966, pp. 201-204) the likely source of this claim, reveals the claim that the Xitli lava flows are 8,000 years is patently false and numerous published radiocarbon dates to disprove it.  Furthermore, the references that I have found, conclude that the “Pyramid” of Cuicuilco is not  2000 years old, but possibly as old as 2,750 to 2,550 years not including later additions.  Since this paradox has absolutely no basis in fact, nothing exists to trouble archaeologists.

  — Final Notes

The term pyramid is in quotes because the “Pyramid” of Cuicuilco is not a true pyramid.  Rather. it is a conical mound faced by a river boulder and basalt slab veneer. It is about 370 feet (110 meters) and diameter at its base and now is 60 feet (20 meters) high.  It was originally much higher (Kelly 1982).

A good introduction to the archaeology of Mexico is the book “Mexico From the Olmecs to the Aztecs” by Michael D. Coe and published by Thames and Hudson.

Sincerely, Paul V. Heinrich  

Paul V. Heinrich and Baton Rouge, LA

All comments are the personal opinion of the writer and do not constitute policy and/or opinion of government or corporate entities. This includes my employer.


Cordova, C., Martin del Pozzo, A. L., and Camacho, J. L., 1994, Paleolandforms and volcanic impact on the environment of prehistoric Cuicuilco. Mexico City. Journal of Archaeological Science. vol. 21, pp. 585-596.

Cummings, B., 1923, Ruins of Cuicuilco may revolutionize our history of ancient America. National Geographic Magazine. vol. 44, pp. 203-220.

Cummings, B., 1933, Cuicuilco and the Archaic Culture of Mexico. University of Arizona Bulletin, vol. 4, no. 8, pp. 289-304.

Fergusson, G. J., and Libby, W. F., 1963, UCLA radiocarbon dates II. Radiocarbon, vol. 5, pp. 1-22.

Kelly. J., 1982, The Complete Visitor’s Guide to Mesoamerican Ruins. University of Oklahoma Press.

Libby, W. F., 1955, Radiocarbon Dating. 2nd edition, Chicago, Illinois.

Hapgood, C. H., 1966, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, 1st Edition, Chilton Books, Philadelphia.

Heizer, R., and Bennyhoff, J. A., 1958, Archaeological investigations of Cuicuilco, Valley of Mexico, 1956. Science. vol. 127, pp. 232-233.

Heizer, R., and Bennyhoff, J., 1972, Archaeological excavations at Cuicuilco, Mexico, 1957. National Geographic Reports 1955-1960. pp. 93-104.

Appendix A, references concerning age of Sphinx omitted ….

Appendix B, Other Cuicuilco References

Below are some additional references concerning the  “Pyramid” of Cuicuilco that I found after writing the above post. 

Badilla Cruz Ramón, R., 1977, Estudio Petrológico de la Lava de la Parte Noreste del Pedregal de San Ángel, D. F., Boletín de la Sociedad Geológica Mexicana, vol. 38,  pp. 40-57. 

Haury, Emil, 1975, Cuicuilco in Retrospect. The Kiva. vol. 41, no. 2, pp. 195-200. 

Maldonado, Koerdell Manuel, 1954, La formación y caracteres del Pedregal de San Ángel: Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia Tlatoani, vol. 8-9, pp. 12-17. 

Müller, Florencia, (ed.) 1990, La cerámica de Cuicuilco B: un rescate arqueológico, Colección científica (Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (Mexico)), D.F. 186 pp. 

Schávelzon, Daniel. 1983, La pirámide de Cuicuilco [álbum fotográfico, 1922-1980] Fondo de Cultura Económica,  Mexico, D.F. 

Wittich, Ernst, 1910, Neue Aufschlüsse im Lavafeld von Coyoacán bei Mexiko. Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie,  bd. 2, pp. 131-137.  

Additional Comments

Since 1997, when I prepared the above web page, additional  research concerning the volcanic eruptions that buried the  the pyramid has been carried out. Important publications  resulting from this research have been: 

Siebe, C., 2000, Age and archaeological implications of Xitle Volcano, southwestern Basin of Mexico-City. Journal of Volcanology and  Geothermal Research. vol. 104; no. 1-4, pp. 45-64.

In part its abstract reads:

The Pedregal lavas are fresh, well-exposed basaltic flows erupted  from the Xitle scoria-and-cinder cone in the southwestern part of  the Basin of Mexico. These lavas cover an area of 70 km (super 2)  and were emplaced over pyramids and other buildings (e.g. Cuicuilco  and Copilco archaeological sites). …

A new age of 1670+ or -35 years BP (AD 245-315) obtained on  charcoal samples collected just beneath the lavas is favored  for the Xitle eruption. These samples originated by ignition of  vegetation during the emplacement of hot scoriaceous tephra.

Similar results are reported in:

González, S., Pastrana, A., Siebe, C., and Duller, G., 2000, Timing  of the prehistoric eruption of Xitle Volcano and the abandonment  of Cuicuilco Pyramid, southern basin of Mexico. In The archaeology  of geological catastrophes, edited by W. J. McGuire, D. R. Griffiths,  and P. L. Hancock, pp. 205-224, special publications no. 171, Geological  Society of London. London, United Kingdom.

They concluded: 

1. ..That the pyramid and nearby settlements were abandoned as  a direct consequence of the volcanic activity of Xitle;


2. The new dates, obtained from material which clearly is  contemporaneous with the volcanic activity, suggest that  the  eruption took place around 1670 years BP, some 300 years  later than previously thought.

Version 4.0 Dec 18, 2001  Copyright (c) 1996-2002 Paul V. Heinrich All rights reserved.