Valley of the Throat Cutters


The Altavista petroglyph complex is located near the village and beach-town of Chacala, south of the Compostela Municipality, in Nayarit Mexico. Click on any small photograph to see in a larger format

The Altavista petroglyph complex is located near the village and beach-town of Chacala, south of the Compostela Municipality, in Nayarit Mexico. Click on any small photograph to see in a larger format

Valley of the Throat Cutters

Also Known as “Alta Vista Petroglyphs”, “La Pila del Rey”, “Chacalán”, “El Santuario”


The site was originally the home for the Tecoxquin or Throat Cutters who continuously occupied the valley from approximately 2000 BC to 2300 BCE.

In 1530 after the arrival of the Spanish, Nuño de Guzman founded the state of Nueva Galicia which encompassed this area.

As with many native groups after the conquest, the Tecoxquin were forced into slavery and suffered through smallpox epidemics. They were totally annihilated as a group.

Admission – By Donation or 15 pesos per person


Timeline Graph

Specific Dates

2300BC – Indiginous group the Tecoxquin or Throat Cutters settled in the area

1519 AD– Hernan Cortez arrives in New World

1524 AD Francisco Cortes de Buenaventua creates the jurisdiction of Santiago of Colima

1530 Nuño de Guzman forms State of Nueva Galicia

1600 Tecoxquines completely annihilated. The Tecuales, the ancestoral group of the Huicholes, repopulated the old villiages and this ceremonial site.


Geographic Location

The site located in a small valley on the coast of Nayarit Mexico.  The main petroglyphs are located in a jungle river bed and around a pool called “The Kings Pool.”



There is a parking lot and signs leading down to the site. The entrance fee officially is by donation although the watchman is very specific about the donation of 15 pesos per person.

The site is self- directed and INAH has installed Spanish and English interpretive signs to guide you.


This site contains at least 56 petroglyphs with obvious cultural and archeological importance. It is also a sacred place for the Huicholes who pray, participate in ceremony and leave offerings for their Gods.

The following interpretive signs guide and inform as you explore the site.

Sign 1 – Altavista

Archeological Petroglyphs site of Altavista known as “La Pila del Rey” located along the Piletas creek on the sides of the Copo volcano. It covers an extension of about 80 hectares where there is one of the biggest concentrations of engraved rocks.

Sign 2 – The Tecoxquin (Throat-Cutters)

They were the original users of the Altavista site. Long before the Spanish, this indigenous group inhabited an extensive region covering the entire southern coast of Nayarit and neighboring coastal and mountain regions of Jalisco. They were mainly farmers, fishermen, salt-producers, and traders in cacao and cotton. The Tecoxquines were organized in a series of villages under the control of Teuzacualpan in the Chila valley (the modern-day town of Zacualpan). Their commercial links allowed them to establish an intense trade which reached at least as far as southern Sinaloa, and as far south and east as Colima and Michoacán.

Sign 3 – Religious Life (Tecoxquines)

Many of the religious ceremonies which occurred at this site were undoubtedly based on nahualism. Nahualism, or shamanism, is an ancient religious practice by which certain persons communicate with their gods and spirits through altered states of consciousness. This tradition has deep roots in the region; the name of the state of Nayarit derives from the word “nahualli”. The Tecoxquines used psychotropic plants and tobacco to attain states of ecstasy that brought them into contact with their deities.

Sign 4 – The Last of The Tecoxquines

In 1524 an army led by Francisco Cortes de Buenaventura incorporated this zone into the jurisdiction of Santiago of Colima. Six years later, Nuño de Guzman formed the kingdom of Nueva Galicia covering the entire northern and western regions of Mexico. Following the Spanish conquest, deaths from epidemics and forced labor completely annihilated the Tecoxquines as a people. Today in the mestizo towns of the area people still speak of “white indians,” ghosts who appear from the mountains to honor their ancient gods.

5) The Tecuales

In the 17th century, European landowners cultivating cacao in the region needed a new workforce. The old Tecoxquin villages, as far as the salt-producing town of Ixtapa were populated with Tecual who were ancestors of the modern-day Huichol. A new wave of Europeans arrived from the town of Compostela and formed haciendas such as Chila and Las Varas. They also brought in slaves through the nearby port of Chacala which had trade links with North and South America. Each of these new peoples reinterpreted the petroglyphs of Altavista in a distinct manner

Sign 6 – The Water Cycle

The state of Nayarit is characterized by high rainfall, the fifth highest in the country. The rains are concentrated in a period of intense storms between May and October. In dramatic contrast to the dry season the rest of the year, the mountains of Altavista attract heavy rainfall leaving the areas to the east much drier (the opposite side of the mountain has a semi-desert climate). Perhaps because of this abundance of water, Altavista was seen as a special place, and venerated for its fertility

Sign 7 – Tomoanchan (or Tamoanchan)

This concept was a central part of ancient mesoamerican cosmology. Tamoanchan is the cosmic tree which connects all life and sustains the world. Its roots are underground in the realm of water and fertility. Its trunk is among humans above ground and reaches upward. The crown of the tree is in the heavens, in the realm of the gods and the rains. Tamoanchan was represented by the Ceiba tree in many parts of Mexico although other large trees such as the pine and the strangler fig could also have served the same purpose.

Sign 8 – Warfare: Trophy Heads

The “Flower War” was one of the principal religious practices associated with the Tecoxquines . The goal was not conquest. Rather the objective was to obtain warrior prisoners for ritual sacrifice, and whose severed heads were later offered to the gods. These wars usually occurred locally, although they were also held in places as far away as the valleys of Talpa, Mascota, and the Mochitiltic Canyon in Jalisco.

Sign 9 – Tlalocan

In ancient Mesoamerica, water was thought to lie underneath the earth, and so the underworld was considered a place of fertility. Tlalocan was the “water paradise” beneath the earth. It was inhabited by the Chanes, or Water Spirits, as well as the spirits of those people who had drowned or whose death was connected to water. Tlalocan was also the place of the mythical crocodile Cipactli, an “earth monster” who symbolized fertility and the primordial times

Sign 10 – The Devoted Christ

The first historical references to the Altavista archeological site date from 1612. They describe complex writing, a multitude of crosses, and above all a devoted Christ whom the local people hold in great veneration. This is possibly a reference to the so-called “Maize Man”, a figure symbolizing fertility and growth. Local farmers leave offerings of candles and gourd bowls of salt to this figure in order to obtain fertility for their coffee and tobacco crops or in hopes of obtaining work.

Sign 11 – The Apostle Matthew

Beginning in the 17th century the belief arose among the Spanish that the apostle Matthew traveled to the new world in prehispanic times to evangelize the indians. This was thought to account for the rock carvings of Altavista, especially the crosses. By the 20th century this belief had developed to the point where Matthew was credited with creating the cross of grass, which is now a religious sanctuary in Tepic and is thought to possess miraculous powers. According to local legend a stream of blood beginning at the cross of grass flowed down the mountains to Altavista, connecting the two sacred sites.

Sign 12 – The Cross

The fact that the cross was a sacred symbol among the Tecoxquines, somewhat surprising to the Spanish, and led to the legend of the apostle Matthew. But for the Tecoxquines, like most other ancient mesoamericans, the cross was in reality a mental map of the cosmos. It symbolized the five sacred directions: the four cardinal points and the center. Each direction was associated with certain gods, colors, and sacred realms, as well as one of the four trees which formed the Tamoanchan. The idea of the four-cornered universe is still present among Mexican indians today, and is symbolized by crosses, diamonds and other similar shapes.

Sign 13 – Communication With The Gods

It is possible that the rocks of Altavista were associated with the mythical trees of Tamoanchan which connected the underworld, the earth and the heavens. The prayers of the people traveled up through the sap of the tree trunks to the realm of the gods. In turn, the gifts of the gods, rain, fertility, and good health returned to the earth through the same trees. For the Tecoxquines , the rocks of Altavista would have served the same purpose, a medium of communication between the people and their gods.

Sign 14 – Tecoxquin

The spirals, wavy lines and other symbols carved in the rocks of Altavista most likely constitute a ritual language of prayers to the Tecoxquin gods. As an agricultural people, the Tocoxquines would have been concerned with obtaining rain, fertility of the earth, and the continuance of the seasonal rhythms they depended upon. Although the exact meaning of the symbols will never be known, the spirals have been interpreted as the sun, rainstorm, wind, coiled snakes, or as a symbol of the natural rainy and dry cycle.

15) Huichol Offerings

The Huichol indians who occasionally visit Altavista originally lived in the mountains of Nayar although in recent years a small group has moved to the Las Varas area. They leave offerings and perform ceremonies here for Nakahue, “our grandmother of fertility,” and also for Tatevari, “our grandfather of fire”. Some Huichols also travel to the nearby port of Chacala where ancient rock carvings are located and leave offerings to Tatei Aramara, “our mother ocean.”


It appears to always be open.


This site requires a high clearance vehicle or the ability to hike a number of kilometers. Take sunblock if you anticipate hiking to the site.

Once at the site you need good rubber soled shoes as the rocks can be slippery especially if wet. Rocky make walking tricky.

Ensure you have insect repellant as this site is in a remote jungle-like setting.

There are no vendors so bring in any water or food you require.


GPS – N21.04.28 W105.24.56


Tours can be arranged in Guayabitos at the Pina Colada restaurant. Nayarit Discoveries Tours -327 274 1211 Esteban or

Drive from Puerto Vallarta:

Require a high clearance vehicle, preferably a 4 wheel drive.

Take Highway 200 North and drive past Rincon de Guayabitos and La Peñita. Turn right to Alta Vista at KM 81 to 82.

Drive just under 2 KMs and turn left. The road is lined with trees.

Drive 2.5 KMs and turn right at the gate.

Drive 3.5 KMs and cross dry creek and through barbed wire gate.

Drive just under 4 KMs and pass through second gate.

Drive 4.5 KMs and park in Parking Lot.

1.5 – 2 hours from Puerto Vallarta