TEOTIHUACAN

About an hour northeast of Mexico City lies an ancient Mesoamerican city.

It is not exactly clear who the Teotihuacanos were, but they were Mesoamerican natives who built this city around 100 BCE.  When the Aztecs found it more than one thousand years later, they named it Teotihuacan - "place where gods were born" - because they believed the gods created the universe here.

TEOTIHUACAN

Despite having a Master's Degree in Art History with a focus on Latin American Art, I can admit it is still difficult to understand the history of Teotihuacan.

Since the Aztecs were the most recent inhabitants, all of the names we have for this city and it's monuments are in the Aztec language, Nahuatl. This has led to the understandale misconception that the Aztecs had always built and ruled Teotihuacan.

WHO BUILT IT?

We still don't know who built it! Although there is evidence of Maya, Mixtec, and Zapotec cultures all being present at the site.

It is more likely that is was a multi-ethnic city with a shared culture and religion.  And since the Aztecs had conquered and appropriated aspects of all of these cultures by the time they came to power in the central Mexican valley, they also had a very similar culture and religion.

BIRTHPLACE OF GODS

Therefore, when the Aztecs came, they believed it was a city purpose built for the creation and worship of their gods.

PYRAMID OF THE SUN

The Pyramid of the Sun was deliberately built to served as a clock... At noon, the sun is directly over the apex of the Pyramid.

And it served as a calendar... The position was set to record the sunrise and sunset on specific dates. And the measurements of its sides correspond to the 260-day calendar used by the people of Teotihuacan.

PYRAMID OF THE SUN

There used to be a temple on top of this pyramid, and it is not clear which god it was built for.

The temple could have been for Huitzilopochtli, the early Mesoamerican god of the sun.  The Aztecs associated the Pyramid with Tlaloc, the third god of the sun... it can get complicated... but it is clear this was a place of much importance to everyone who lived here at any of these times.

PYRAMID OF THE SUN

There are four children  buried at each corner of the pyramid and at each level as it was built. They were  a sacrificial offering to the building of the pyramid.

The existence of the temple, and the offerings and burials found suggests that the pyramid would have served a more religious symbolic purpose as well and wasn't just a clock or calendar. 

PYRAMID OF THE MOON

The Pyramid of the Moon was dedicated to the "Great Goddess" of Teotihuacan...  ...and later the Aztec goddess Chalchiuhtlicue. She was mostly associated with water, fertility, and agriculture

This was the site of countess human and animal sacrifices. Offerings dedicated to the fertility of the land signified survival to the people here. 

PYRAMID OF THE MOON

Why is the Pyramid so steep?

So the sacrificed bodies would make it to the bottom without incident. It was very important that the body landed on a terrace at the base of the pyramid to complete the ritual All parts of the human or animal body were used in the sacrifice.

AVENUE OF THE DEAD

"The Avenue of the Dead" is an Aztec misnomer that still remains in common use today.

When the Aztecs reached Teotihuacan, they assumed that the housing structures along the main avenue were burial tombs.  And while they were technically burial sites, they were far from tombs. They were primarily homes to the city's elite... who did bury family members under their patios.

AVENUE OF THE DEAD

There was a clear hierarchy in the city. .

The elite had homes closest to the pyramids, temples, and sacred sites and along the Avenue.

ANCIENT APARTMENTS!

And the lower classes lived in group housing.

A complex like this would have been home to 20-30 families.

THE CITADEL

 "The Citadel" was the Spanish name given to this area of the city when excavations began.

It appeared to them to be a fort, but it was really a city center, marketplace, and neighborhood with a temple.

TEMPLE OF THE FEATHERED SERPENT, QUETZALCOATL

My favorite temple at Teotihuacan was actually ritually desecrated at some point in it's history.

It was burned, covered in earth, and and the Adosada Platform  was built in front of it. It is evidence of a huge transition taking place within the city's rituals and government.

TEMPLE OF THE FEATHERED SERPENT, QUETZALCOATL

Here you can see the view from the entrance of the Citadel. The Temple of the Feathered Serpent is blocked by the Adosada Platform from the entrance to the Citadel.

You have to walk closer and look behind it to see the Temple to Quetzalcoatl .

TEMPLE OF THE FEATHERED SERPENT, QUETZALCOATL

In 2003, archaeologists discovered a hidden tunnel under the Temple with a a chamber representing the underworld.

Over 200 sacrificial victims have been found buried in the Temple and are thought to be mostly local warriors sacrificed for protection upon the Temple's building and dedication.

TEOTIHUACAN

WE HOPE YOU ARE INSPIRED TO LEARN MORE AND VISIT!

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