Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan

Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan

Mexico finds fire-god figure at top of Pyramid of the Sun

MEXICO CITY -- Did the rulers of the ancient city of Teotihuacan dedicate their largest pyramid to the god of fire, the so-called old god with a signature beard and fire atop his head?

Mexican archaeologists announced this week that a figure of the god, called Huehueteotl, was found in a covered pit at the apex of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, a popular archaeological site north of Mexico City.

Excavations are ongoing, but the discovery suggests that a long-disappeared temple at the top of the pyramid was used to perform ritual offerings to the fire god, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, or INAH, said in a statement Monday.

Huehueteotl is known in the archaeology of various Mesoamerican civilizations, such as the Olmecs and Aztecs, and the Aztecs’ predecessors in the Valley of Mexico, the Teotihuacanos. He is commonly represented as a viejo, or old man, sitting in a cross-legged position, often with a beard and a beaked nose, and with a hearth-like source of fire balanced on his head. Huehueteotl is associated with wisdom and rulership.

Archaeologists found the Huehueteotl, along with two stone pillars, in a covered pit about 15 feet deep, at a height of about 214 feet from the ground. The pit is below the remnants of a platform at the top of the Pyramid of the Sun that probably served as the foundation for a temple.

The people of Teotihuacan finished building the pyramid around AD 100 and destroyed its apex temple themselves around the end of the 5th century or the beginning of the 6th century, INAH said.

Archaeologists did not know that a pit existed at the top of the stepped pyramid, renowned as one of the largest of its kind in the Americas. It is now thought that Leopoldo Batres, the pioneering archaeologist who restored the pyramid to the basic form seen today, covered the platform a century ago without properly excavating it.

“Once we didn’t find the bottom of the platform, upon further digging we figured out it was pit,” INAH archaeologist Nelly Nuñez said in a video.

In 2011, INAH archaeologists announced they had found a 400-foot-long tunnel at the base of the Pyramid of the Sun, which is still being studied. Mexico’s government has been excavating the structure in earnest since 2005. Only a fraction of the Teotihuacan site has been studied in about 100 years of government archaeological work there.

The Huehueteotl was uncovered between June and December. It weighs 418 pounds and is made of a gray volcanic stone. An INAH spokeswoman said Wednesday that the fire-god figure and other objects found with it were still being examined. It was unclear when they might be exhibited to the public.

Who Built It?

Cowgill says the site's visible surface remains have all been mapped in detail. But only some portions have been excavated.

Scholars once pointed to the Toltec culture. Others note that the Toltec peaked far later than Teotihuacan's zenith, undermining that theory. Some scholars say the Totonac culture was responsible.

No matter its principal builders, evidence shows that Teotihuacan hosted a patchwork of cultures including the Maya, Mixtec, and Zapotec. One theory says an erupting volcano forced a wave of immigrants into the Teotihuacan valley and that those refugees either built or bolstered the city.

The main excavations, performed by Professors Saburo Sugiyama of Aichi Prefectural University in Japan and Rubén Cabrera, a Mexican archaeologist, have been at the Pyramid of the Moon. It was there, beneath layers of dirt and stone, that researchers realized the awe-inspiring craftsmanship of Teotihuacan's architects was matched by a cultural penchant for brutality and human and animal sacrifice.

Inside the temple, researchers found buried animals and bodies, with heads that had been lobbed off, all thought to be offerings to gods or sanctification for successive layers of the pyramid as it was built.

Since 2003, archaeologist Sergio Gomez has been working to access new parts of the complex, and has only recently reached the end of a tunnel that could hold a king's tomb.

It's unclear why Teotihuacan collapsed one theory is that poorer classes carried out an internal uprising against the elite.

For Cowgill, who says more studies are needed to understand the lives of the poorer classes that inhabited Teotihuacan, the mystery lies not as much in who built the city or in why it fell.

"Rather than asking why Teotihuacan collapsed, it is more interesting to ask why it lasted so long," he says. "What were the social, political, and religious practices that provided such stability?"

Top 8 Facts about the Pyramid of the Sun, Mexico

The pyramid of the Sun is the largest in the ancient city of Teotihuacán, Mexico. It was built around 200 AD and to date, it is one of the largest structures of its kind in Mesoamerica.

The pyramid stands at 216 feet above ground level and its base is 730 by 760 feet.

It is found along the Avenue of the Dead between the Pyramid of the Moon and the Ciudadela. It forms part of a large complex in the heart of the ancient city.

This ancient city was home to more than 100,000 people. The Aztec that occupied the abandoned city believed that the city was sacred because of the pyramids and the altars it had.

Here are the top 8 facts about the Pyramid of the Sun.

1. The name Pyramid of the Sun is from the Aztecs

The name Pyramid of the Sun comes from the Aztecs. They had moved into the city of Teotihuacan after it was abandoned for several centuries.

It is not known what name the Teotihuacanos gave to the pyramid. The Aztecs named the abandoned city the place where the gods were created.

What will remain a mystery is the city native’s culture, history and origin.

2. It is one of the many Teotihuacan Pyramids

Teotihuacan people had a unique architectural style. The plan of the city is arranged in a grid layout that covers 8 square miles.

There are 2,000 single-story apartments, several pyramids that vary in size, temples, plazas, temples and palaces that were used by priests and the noble.

The main buildings in the city are connected by the Avenue of the Dead also known as Miccaotli in the Aztec language. This Avenue is 40 metres wide and 1.5 miles long.

Some of the important structures in the city are the Pyramid of the Moon, the Pyramid of the Sun, the Citadel, and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (the Feathered Serpent).

3. The Pyramid of the Sun was constructed in two phases

By Jarek Tuszyński – Wikimedia

This famous pyramid was constructed in two phases.

The first construction phase was around 200 CE. It was slightly shorter than it is today.

After the second phase resulted in the size the pyramid is today. It is 738 feet wide and 246 feet long. This makes it the 3 rd largest pyramid in the world.

An altar was constructed on top of the pyramid. It got ruined.

the ancient Teotihuacanos finished the pyramid with lime plaster that was imported from the neighbouring region.

They painted it with colourful murals. They however faded with time.

4. It is believed that the Pyramid of the Sun is sacred

When the Aztecs moved into the Teotihuacan city, they related it to the city of gods. This is because of the pyramids, the citadels and images that were drawn on them.

With time, most of the evidence relating to the venerated deity have disappeared. The temple on top of the pyramid was destroyed by enemies while the remains wasted away after the city was abandoned.

This has made it difficult for archaeologists to identify the god that was worshipped on the Pyramid of the Sun.

According to Mexican folklore, the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun were built to honour the birth of the sun and moon gods.

Priests performed daily ceremonies at the pyramids. They also believe that the location and design of the pyramid represented the celestial, terrestrial and subterranean universe.

5. Teotihuacan abandoned the Pyramid of the Sun

The main reason why the Teotihuacanos abandoned their city is unknown. Not much is known about the empire either.

Several speculations explain what may have led to the destruction of the city.

The Teotihuacanos lived and built their city in central Mexico between the 1 st and 9 th centuries. Fire destroyed the city and soon after its occupants left.

Historians and archaeologists believe that about 150,000 people called the city home. Little is known about their whereabouts.

This city was one of the largest in the ancient world.

6. Very little is known about the occupants of the city and the Pyramid of the Sun

There was a lot of plundering and intentional destruction of the structures in Teotihuacan city.

The people of this city are believed to have been here long before the Mayans were. The Aztecs came 1000 years after the Teotihuacanos.

Their civilization however tells of a people who were skilled and strategic. This city was one of the largest in Mexico.

Archaeologists have theorised that climate change and severe droughts may have created division amongst the people. This is believed to be the process that led to the destruction of the city.

However, the real reason is still unknown. Archaeological investigations are still ongoing at the pyramids.

7. The location of the Pyramid was strategic

By High Vibration Station – Wikimedia

The pyramid was built on a well thought out spot. Its location made it possible to align it to the prominent Cerro Gordo.

It was also vertical in the direction of the sunrise and sunset. The entire central part of Teotihuacan, including the Avenue of the Dead, is replicated in the orientation of the Pyramid of the Sun.

There is a man-made tunnel below the pyramid that leads to a cave beneath the centre of the pyramid. The cave is believed to be a royal tomb.

The tunnel was thought to have been formed from lava tubes but archaeological findings showed it was man-made.

8. Archaeologists recovered artefacts from the Pyramid

Very little artefacts have been recovered from the Pyramid of the Sun. Most of the structures were destroyed or looted.

Some of the artefacts found were arrowheads, human figurines in the pyramids. These objects were used during sacrificial ceremonies.

Burial sites for children were also discovered at the corners of the pyramid. Archaeologists believe that the children were offered as a sacrifice to the gods.

A unique historical artefact discovered in the 19 th century, the Teotihuacan Ocelot, is now part of the British Museum’s collection.


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New Tunnel Discovered Under Ancient Pyramid

Archaeologists think the tunnel under the Pyramid of the Moon in Mexico's Teotihuacán may represent the underworld as part of an ancient belief system.

Archaeologists have discovered a secret tunnel under a famous and massive pyramid in the ancient city of Teotihuacán, northeast of Mexico City.

The tunnel was found under the Pyramid of the Moon, the second-largest structure in the ancient city (the largest is the Pyramid of the Sun), according to the International Business Times. The archaeologists who discovered it believe that it mirrors the Teotihuacans’ great monuments and may represent the underworld in the belief system of the pre-Colombian, 2,000-year-old civilization that built it (a civilization thought to pre-date the Aztecs, who later occupied the site).

The tunnel is long, extending from the central square known as the Plaza de la Luna to the nearby pyramid. It is about 33 feet (10 meters) deep, and is similar to other tunnels that have been discovered recently, like the tunnel that was found under the Temple of the Plumed Serpent.

While no one has been able to go inside the tunnel yet, the discovery was made through a method known as electrical resistivity tomography, which creates subterranean images. A team of archaeologists from Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History was using the technique as part of their conservation efforts for the central square when they stumbled upon the tunnel.

The Pyramid of the Moon was likely used for human sacrifice and other rituals, based on studies of human remains found at burial sites. It is unclear what the tunnel may have been used for, and archaeologists plan to do more research to determine its purpose and whether or not it contains more artefacts.

Teotihuacán was long a major city and had a complex history, much of which has yet to be unwound. It was one of the largest in the Americas in the pre-Columbian era, having been home to at least 125,000 people.

Pyramid of the Sun – Mexico

Interested in history? Teotihuacan in Mexico is one of the largest Pyramids in the world and a popular tourist attraction just outside Mexico City. Commonly mistaken for Aztec, this Pyramid was built by the Teotihuacan Civilization many years before any records of the Aztecs.

We visited the Pyramid of the Sun just outside Mexico City. The pyramid was roughly a two-hour drive from Puebla. Though it is possible to make the drive, we took a coach bus tour to avoid having to drive in Mexico. Entry to the Pyramids is 70 Peso per person which is about $5 Canadian. There are several entry points to the Pyramid walk. The tour buses drop off at the Main Gate and pick up at Gate 5. Here you can pick up a site brochure for 20 Peso. They are available in several languages.

It takes approximately two hours to walk from end to end, this does not include climbing any of the pyramids. At the main gate if you walk straight out, climbing is required. To the far wall are figures and animals carved into the pyramid wall. Consult your guide for the story of the carvings, this is the Temple of the Feathered Serpent.

When you come to the Sun Pyramid, make note of the line-up to climb this pyramid. They only allow a certain number of people on the pyramid at a time, so if you plan to climb the pyramid arrive early to avoid waiting in line. We unfortunately were subject to the times of our tour and thus did not have the time to climb.

The Moon Pyramid can be found at the end of the Avenue of the Dead, which is what the main walking path is called. This pyramid can be climbed without any wait but be careful as there are no handrails to help support you. This pyramid is smaller then the Sun Pyramid but gives you a great picture from the top if you do not have time to climb the Sun Pyramid.

There is very limited accessibility at Teotihuacan. It would not be recommended for anyone using a standard wheelchair, but it is possible if you are strong and can push yourself around in the dirt or have someone who can push you around in dirt. A powerchair will have a much easier time getting around on the Avenue of the Dead. None of the pyramids are accessible. The museum inside is accessible via large automatic doors. Located at Gate 3, there is a ramp leading to an area that overlooks the Moon Pyramid Plaza.

Unfortunately, no assisted listening devices are available for those with visual impairments. A site guide is available for purchase at the main gate, available in multiple languages.

Washrooms are located at the main gate. There are no washrooms available throughout the site and washrooms are not accessible.

Food and drinks are not available out in Teotihuacan, so make sure to pack accordingly. There are vendors at each of the gates where snacks, drinks and souvenirs can be purchased. Bring lots of sunscreen and a hat as there is no shade throughout the Teotihuacan.

If you arrive at the right time, outside the main gate you can watch a Mexican heritage show. Four people will tie themselves to a post and will spin around from the string as they descend the poll. It is called Danza de los Voladores, which means Dance of the Flyers. It is a cultural ceremony only practiced today in isolated parts of Mexico. There are other areas of Mexico City and Puebla where this cultural tradition can be viewed if you do not catch it here.

Teotihuacan is a fantastic day trip for anyone visiting Mexico City or Puebla. Though not wheelchair accessible, aspects can be enjoyed from your chair but the true value of the pyramids and Avenue of the Dead need to be experiences from inside the complex. A cultural trip through time for anyone looking to learn and enjoy Mexico’s rich history.


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Teotihuacán, (Nahuatl: “The City of the Gods”) the most important and largest city of pre-Aztec central Mexico, located about 30 miles (50 km) northeast of modern Mexico City. At its apogee (c. 500 ce ), it encompassed some 8 square miles (20 square km) and supported a population estimated at 125,000–200,000, making it, at the time, one of the largest cities in the world. It was the region’s major economic as well as religious centre. Teotihuacán was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.

The area was settled by 400 bce , but it did not experience large-scale urban growth until three centuries later, with the arrival of refugees from Cuicuilco, a city destroyed by volcanic activity. It is not known whether the basic urban plan also dates to that time. About 750 ce central Teotihuacán burned, possibly during an insurrection or a civil war. Although parts of the city were occupied after that event, much of it fell into ruin. Centuries later the area was revered by Aztec pilgrims.

The origin and language of the Teotihuacanos are yet unknown. Their cultural influences spread throughout Mesoamerica, and the city carried on trade with distant regions. Perhaps two-thirds of the urban population were involved in farming the surrounding fields. Others worked with ceramics or obsidian, a volcanic glass that was used for weapons, tools, and ornamentation. The city also had large numbers of merchants, many of whom had immigrated there from great distances. The priest-rulers who governed the city also staged grand religious pageants and ceremonies that often involved human sacrifices.

In addition to some 2,000 single-story apartment compounds, the ruined city contains great plazas, temples, a canalized river, and palaces of nobles and priests. The main buildings are connected by a 130-foot- (40-metre-) wide road, the Avenue of the Dead (“Calle de los Muertos”), that stretches 1.5 miles (2.4 km) oriented slightly east of true north, it points directly at the nearby sacred peak of Cerro Gordo. The Avenue of the Dead was once erroneously thought to have been lined with tombs, but the low buildings that flank it probably were palace residences.

The north end of the Avenue of the Dead is capped by the Pyramid of the Moon and flanked by platforms and lesser pyramids. The second largest structure in the city, the Pyramid of the Moon rises to 140 feet (43 metres) and measures 426 by 511 feet (130 by 156 metres) at its base. Its main stairway faces the Avenue of the Dead.

Along the southern part of the avenue lies the Ciudadela (“Citadel”), a large square courtyard covering 38 acres (15 hectares). Within the Citadel stands the Temple of Quetzalcóatl (the Feathered Serpent) in the form of a truncated pyramid projecting from its ornately decorated walls are numerous stone heads of the deity. The temple walls were once painted in hematite red. Excavations of the Citadel were first carried out during the period 1917–20. Individual burial sites were found around the temple in 1925, and in the early 1980s archaeologists discovered the ceremonially interred remains of 18 men, probably soldiers who had been ritually sacrificed. Carbon-14 dating indicated that the graves were prepared about 200 ce . Further work has revealed more than 130 skeletons of both sexes in mass graves along the edges of the temple, as well as beneath it.

The Pyramid of the Sun is one of the largest structures of its type in the Western Hemisphere. It dominates the central city from the east side of the Avenue of the Dead. The pyramid rises 216 feet (66 metres) above ground level, and it measures approximately 720 by 760 feet (220 by 230 metres) at its base. It was constructed of about 1,000,000 cubic yards (765,000 cubic metres) of material, including hewed tezontle, a red coarse volcanic rock of the region. During hastily organized restoration work in 1905–10, the architect Leopoldo Batres arbitrarily added a fifth terrace level to the structure, and many of its original facing stones were removed. In the early 1970s exploration below the pyramid revealed a system of cave and tunnel chambers. Over subsequent years other tunnels were revealed throughout the city, and it was suggested that much of the building stone of Teotihuacán was mined there.

The city was initially excavated in 1884. In the 1960s and ’70s the first systematic survey (the Teotihuacán Mapping Project) was led by the American archaeologist René Millon, and hundreds of workers in 1980–82 excavated under the direction of the Mexican archaeologist Rubén Cabrera Castro. Work in the 1990s focused on the city’s subterranean tunnels and on the apartment compounds, which were found to be decorated with vividly painted murals. Long-standing threats to the greater area of ruins are posed by human habitation (including five towns), numerous shops, roads and highways, and a military base. Many neighbourhoods excavated in the late 20th century had been earlier cultivated by farmers. See also pre-Columbian civilizations: Teotihuacán.

28 Dec 2012 at 11:36

Teotihuacan (Teotihuacán) is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Mexico City with two thousand years of Indian temple complex, which is the foundation and the dominant with two huge stepped pyramids – Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun.

Teotihuacan is located just 50 km north-east of the capital of Mexico – Mexico City.

The road to the Teotihuacan outside Mexico City is about an hour.

This once-major town, about 25 miles northeast of Mexico City, is of great interest to archaeologists as the oldest city in the Western Hemisphere. The first settlement was founded here in the I. BC. and was a cluster of villages united around a mysterious caves formed by lava during the eruption of the volcano. The caves have been central to the mythology of Mesoamerica.

In Teotihuacan several mysterious monuments remained, revered not only in the country but especially,all over the world: Pyramid of the Sun – one of the largest buildings in the history of the Western Hemisphere, the Pyramid of the Moon and the Paths of the Dead, a wide street, flanked by the ruins of numerous temples . Mysterious buildings are decorated with frescoes, clearly illustrating mythological subjects. The Aztecs, who found the mysterious ruins, decided that this was a place where gods were born, and call it the “City of the Gods”, Rica.

The Aztecs believed that the area had the mystical door to the afterlife and through them the human would lead to world gods and its own ancestors. Teotihuacan caused special reverence by the four naturally shaped protrusions that symbolized parts Mesoamerican cosmos. In the II century A. C. the Pyramid of the Sun was built above the cave. By this time, the settlement became an important administrative center, culminating and flourishing of which continued around 700-750 years.

It is interesting to have the glance at the pyramid itself as far as the strongest impression one can get is exactly there.Mystical Pyramid of the Sun is the third highest of the pyramids in the world.

This massive structure is made of rubble, clay and soil, lined with stone and topped with a wooden temple. Mysterious pyramid was discovered and first studied by Leopoldo Batres in the first decade of the XX century. These excavations were carried out in 1992-1993 under the sponsorships of the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History with the supervision of Eduardo Matos Moctezuma.

Initially, the base area of the pyramid was about 215 square meters, height – 63 meters. Later, it extended at least twice. Today, the length of each side of the base is 225 meters.

At the heart of the city lies a place known as “The Citadel.” Inner area, which sat up to one hundred thousand people and was half of the population of the city by that time, was limited to four massive pyramids. The heart of the complex was Pyramid Feathered Serpent (Quetzalcoatl). To reconnect two rooms: the North and South palaces were used not only as an administrative center, but also to live and work. These structures have been found during excavations conducted by the National Institute of Anthropology and History.

For the short information about the dead road:

it was 1.5 miles long and played a role of the main artery for Teotihuacan. Starting from the Plaza of the Moon in the northern part of the city, it guided to the Citadel, the city market and the southern complex of temples. Possibly earlier road continued on, towards the mountains. The central part, which is located between the Pyramid of the Moon and the river San Juan, on the sides of the platforms was limited. The road passed under a complex drainage system serving the houses on both sides.

Pyramid of the Moon is located at the northern end of the Paths of the Dead, and remains the most mysterious structure of the city.

Recent studies carried out here under the guidance of Associate Professor of Japanese Aichi Prefectural University Saburo Sugiyama, revealed tombs, which referred to the fifth phase of the creation of this pyramid. Here, were found: four human skeletons, animal bones, shells, jewelry. However, there was an earlier mysterious tomb detected, referring to the fourth phase of construction, with the skeleton of the sacrificed person, also the remains of animals and gifts. Commenting on the latest discovery, Sugiyama said, “As a result of recent studies, we found indisputable evidence of militarism inherent in this culture from the earliest stages of its development.” Social and cultural changes that illustrate the differences in styles typical of the fourth and fifth phases of construction, could also be reflected in the buildings Feathered Serpent Pyramid and the Pyramid of the Sun. The last two temples were built about the same time and much later than the Pyramid of the Moon.

The reasons,what led to such developed city’s weakening and deterioration, stays quite vague and mysterious. Simply, nearly nothing is known about it. Obviously, there was some catastrophe, but it remains a mystery why, leaving the city, residents tried to break up the base and burn everything that they have created over the centuries. However, perhaps the truth behind the mystery is that all above mentioned was caused by invaders.

According to one of the mystical legend, the world was destroyed and re-created four times – jaguars, fire, wind and flood. The last time the gods gathered at Teotihuacan to decide which of them should jump into the ritual fire and for the fifth time to revive life. The choice fell on Nanauatzina, which is building up a fifth sun shone all mankind.

True or not, this place still attracts dozens of visitors every year and stays one of the most mysterious places in the world. Thus, the travelers, who are keen on exploring in deep histories and making discoveries are more than welcome to Mexico.


The name Teōtīhuacān was given by the Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs centuries after the fall of the city around 550 CE. The term has been glossed as "birthplace of the gods", or "place where gods were born", [7] reflecting Nahua creation myths that were said to occur in Teotihuacan. Nahuatl scholar Thelma D. Sullivan interprets the name as "place of those who have the road of the gods." [8] This is because the Aztecs believed that the gods created the universe at that site. The name is pronounced [te.oːtiːˈwakaːn] in Nahuatl, with the accent on the syllable wa. By normal Nahuatl orthographic conventions, a written accent would not appear in that position. Both this pronunciation and the Spanish pronunciation [te.otiwaˈkan] are used, and both spellings appear in this article.

The original name of the city is unknown, but it appears in hieroglyphic texts from the Maya region as puh, or "Place of Reeds". [9] This suggests that, in the Maya civilization of the Classic period, Teotihuacan was understood as a Place of Reeds similar to other Postclassic Central Mexican settlements that took the name of Tollan, such as Tula-Hidalgo and Cholula.

This naming convention led to much confusion in the early 20th century, as scholars debated whether Teotihuacan or Tula-Hidalgo was the Tollan described by 16th-century chronicles. It now seems clear that Tollan may be understood as a generic Nahua term applied to any large settlement. In the Mesoamerican concept of urbanism, Tollan and other language equivalents serve as a metaphor, linking the bundles of reeds and rushes that formed part of the lacustrine environment of the Valley of Mexico and the large gathering of people in a city. [10]

As of January 23, 2018 the name "Teotihuacan" has come under scrutiny by experts, who now feel that the site's name may have been changed by Spanish colonizers in the 16th century. Archeologist Veronica Ortega of the National Institute of Anthropology and History states that the city appears to have actually been named "Teohuacan", meaning "City of the Sun" rather than "City of the Gods", as the current name suggests. [11]

Historical course Edit

The first human establishment in the area dates back to 600 BC, and until 200 BCE there were scattered small villages on the site of the future city of Teotihuacan. It is estimated that the total population of the Teotihuacan Valley during this time was approximately 6,000 inhabitants. [12] During the period from 100 BC to 750 AD, Teotihuacan had evolved into a huge urban and administrative center with cultural influences throughout the broader Mesoamerica region.

The history of the city of Teotihuacan is distinguished by four consecutive periods, known as Teotihuacan I, II, III and IV.

Period I occurred between 200 - 1 BCE and marks the genesis of a real city. During this period, Teotihuacan began to grow into a city as farmers working on the hillside of the Teotihuacan Valley began to move down into the valley, coalescing around the abundant springs of Teotihuacan. [13]

Period II lasted between 1 AD to 350 AD. During this era Teotihuacan exhibited explosive growth that caused it to be the largest metropolis in Mesoamerica. Factors influencing this growth include the destruction of other settlements due to volcanic eruptions and the economic pull of the expanding city. [13] This influx of new residents caused a reorganization of urban housing to the unique compound complexes that typify Teotihuacan. [13] This period is notable both for its monumental architecture and its monumental sculpture. During this period, the construction of some of the most well known sites of Teotihuacan, the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon, was completed. [14] Further, the shift of political power from the Temple of the Feathered Serpent and its surrounding palace structure to the Street of the Dead Complex occurred in this period sometime between AD 250 and 350. [15] Some authors believe that this represents a shift from centralized, monarchical political system to a more decentralized and bureaucratic organization. [13] [15]

Period III lasted from the year 350 to 650 AD and is the so-called classical period of Teotihuacan, during which the city reached the apogee of its influence in Mesoamerica. Its population was estimated at 125,000 inhabitants, or more, and the city was among the largest cities of the ancient world, containing 2,000 buildings within an area of 18 square kilometers. [16] It was also during this high period when Teotihuacan contained approximately half all people in the Valley of Mexico, becoming a kind of primate city of Mesoamerica. [16] This period saw a massive reconstruction of monuments the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, which dates back to the previous period, was covered with a rich sculptural decoration. Typical artistic artifacts of this period were funeral masks, crafted mainly from green stone and covered with mosaics of turquoise, shell or obsidian. These masks were highly uniform in nature.

Period IV describes the time period between 650 and 750 AD. It marks the end of Teotihuacan as a major power in Mesoamerica. The city's elite housing compounds, those clustered around the Street of the Dead, bear many burn marks and archeologists hypothesize that the city experienced civil strife that hastened its decline. [17] Factors that also led to the decline of the city included disruptions in tributary relations, increased social stratification, and power struggles between the ruling and intermediary elites. [13] Following this decline, Teotihuacan continued to be inhabited, though it never reached its previous levels of population.

Origins and foundation Edit

The early history of Teotihuacan is quite mysterious and the origin of its founders is uncertain. Around 300 BCE, people of the central and southeastern area of Mesoamerica began to gather into larger settlements. [18] Teotihuacan was the largest urban center of Mesoamerica before the Aztecs, almost 1000 years prior to their epoch. [18] The city was already in ruins by the time of the Aztecs. For many years, archeologists believed it was built by the Toltec. This belief was based on colonial period texts, such as the Florentine Codex, which attributed the site to the Toltecs. However, the Nahuatl word "Toltec" generally means "craftsman of the highest level" and may not always refer to the Toltec civilization centered at Tula, Hidalgo. Since Toltec civilization flourished centuries after Teotihuacan, the people could not have been the city's founders.

In the Late Formative era, a number of urban centers arose in central Mexico. The most prominent of these appears to have been Cuicuilco, on the southern shore of Lake Texcoco. Scholars have speculated that the eruption of the Xitle volcano may have prompted a mass emigration out of the central valley and into the Teotihuacan valley. These settlers may have founded or accelerated the growth of Teotihuacan. [19]

Other scholars have put forth the Totonac people as the founders of Teotihuacan and have suggested that Teotihuacan was a multi-ethnic state since they find diverse cultural aspects connected to the Zapotec, Mixtec, and Maya peoples. [20] The builders of Teotihuacan took advantage of the geography in the Basin of Mexico. From the swampy ground, they constructed raised beds, called chinampas, creating high agricultural productivity despite old methods of cultivation. [18] This allowed for the formation of channels, and subsequently canoe traffic, to transport food from farms around the city. The earliest buildings at Teotihuacan date to about 200 BCE. The largest pyramid, the Pyramid of the Sun, was completed by 100 CE. [21]

Year 378: Conquest of Tikal Edit

In January 378, while Spearthrower Owl supposedly ruled in Teotihuacan, the warlord Sihyaj K'ahk' conquered Tikal, removing and replacing the Maya king, with support from El Peru and Naachtun, as recorded by Stela 31 at Tikal and other monuments in the Maya region. [22]

In 378 a group of Teotihuacanos organized a coup d'etat in Tikal, Guatemala. This was not the Teotihuacan state it was a group of the Feathered-Serpent people, thrown out from the city. The Feathered-Serpent Pyramid was burnt, all the sculptures were torn from the temple, and another platform was built to efface the facade . [23]

Year 426: Conquest of Copán and Quiriguá Edit

In 426, the Copán ruling dynasty was created with K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo' as the first king. The Dynasty went on to have sixteen rulers. [24] Copán is located in modern-day Honduras, as described by Copán Altar Q. [25] Soon thereafter, Yax K'uk' Mo' installed Tok Casper as king of Quiriguá, about 50 km north of Copán.

Zenith Edit

The city reached its peak in 450 CE, when it was the center of a powerful culture whose influence extended through much of the Mesoamerican region. At its peak, the city covered over 30 km 2 (over 11 + 1 ⁄ 2 square miles), and perhaps housed a population of 150,000 people, with one estimate reaching as high as 250,000. [26] Various districts in the city housed people from across the Teotihuacano region of influence, which spread south as far as Guatemala. Notably absent from the city are fortifications and military structures.

The nature of political and cultural interactions between Teotihuacan and the centers of the Maya region (as well as elsewhere in Mesoamerica) has been a long-standing and significant area for debate. Substantial exchange and interaction occurred over the centuries from the Terminal Preclassic to the Mid-Classic period. "Teotihuacan-inspired ideologies" and motifs persisted at Maya centers into the Late Classic, long after Teotihuacan itself had declined. [27] However, scholars debate the extent and degree of Teotihuacano influence. Some believe that it had direct and militaristic dominance others that adoption of "foreign" traits was part of a selective, conscious, and bi-directional cultural diffusion. New discoveries have suggested that Teotihuacan was not much different in its interactions with other centers from the later empires, such as the Toltec and Aztec. [28] [29] It is believed that Teotihuacan had a major influence on the Preclassic and Classic Maya.

Architectural styles prominent at Teotihuacan are found widely dispersed at a number of distant Mesoamerican sites, which some researchers have interpreted as evidence for Teotihuacan's far-reaching interactions and political or militaristic dominance. [30] A style particularly associated with Teotihuacan is known as talud-tablero, in which an inwards-sloping external side of a structure (talud) is surmounted by a rectangular panel (tablero). Variants of the generic style are found in a number of Maya region sites, including Tikal, Kaminaljuyu, Copan, Becan, and Oxkintok, and particularly in the Petén Basin and the central Guatemalan highlands. [31] The talud-tablero style pre-dates its earliest appearance at Teotihuacan in the Early Classic period it appears to have originated in the Tlaxcala-Puebla region during the Preclassic. [32] Analyses have traced the development into local variants of the talud-tablero style at sites such as Tikal, where its use precedes the 5th-century appearance of iconographic motifs shared with Teotihuacan. The talud-tablero style disseminated through Mesoamerica generally from the end of the Preclassic period, and not specifically, or solely, via Teotihuacano influence. It is unclear how or from where the style spread into the Maya region. During the zenith main structures of the site, including the pyramids, were painted in dark-red (maroon to Burgundy) colors (only small spots remain now) and were a very impressive sight. [33]

The city was a center of industry, home to many potters, jewelers, and craftsmen. Teotihuacan is known for producing a great number of obsidian artifacts. No ancient Teotihuacano non-ideographic texts are known to exist (or known to have existed). Inscriptions from Maya cities show that Teotihuacan nobility traveled to, and perhaps conquered, local rulers as far away as Honduras. Maya inscriptions note an individual nicknamed by scholars as "Spearthrower Owl", apparently ruler of Teotihuacan, who reigned for over 60 years and installed his relatives as rulers of Tikal and Uaxactun in Guatemala. [ citation needed ]

Scholars have based interpretations about the culture at Teotihuacan on archeology, the murals that adorn the site (and others, like the Wagner Murals, found in private collections), and hieroglyphic inscriptions made by the Maya describing their encounters with Teotihuacano conquerors. The creation of murals, perhaps tens of thousands of murals, reached its height between 450 and 650. The artistry of the painters was unrivaled in Mesoamerica and has been compared with that of painters in Renaissance Florence, Italy. [34]

Collapse Edit

Scholars had originally thought that invaders attacked the city in the 7th or 8th century, sacking and burning it. More recent evidence, however, seems to indicate that the burning was limited to the structures and dwellings associated primarily with the ruling class. [35] Some think this suggests that the burning was from an internal uprising. They say the invasion theory is flawed, because early archeological work on the city was focused exclusively on the palaces and temples, places used by the upper classes. Because all of these sites showed burning, archeologists concluded that the whole city was burned. Instead, it is now known that the destruction was centered on major civic structures along the Avenue of the Dead. The sculptures inside palatial structures, such as Xalla, were shattered. [36] No traces of foreign invasion are visible at the site. [35]

Evidence for population decline beginning around the 6th century lends some support to the internal unrest hypothesis. The decline of Teotihuacan has been correlated to lengthy droughts related to the climate changes of 535–536. This theory of ecological decline is supported by archeological remains that show a rise in the percentage of juvenile skeletons with evidence of malnutrition during the 6th century, which is why there is different evidence that helps indicate that famine is most likely one of the more possible reasons for the decline of Teotihuacan. The majority of their food came from agriculture: They grew things such as maize, beans, amaranth, green tomatoes (tomatillos?), and pumpkins, but their harvest was not nearly sufficient to feed a population as big as it is believed have lived in Teotihuacan. [37] This finding does not conflict with either of the above theories, since both increased warfare and internal unrest can also be effects of a general period of drought and famine. [38] Other nearby centers, such as Cholula, Xochicalco, and Cacaxtla, competed to fill the power void left by Teotihuacan's decline. They may have aligned themselves against Teotihuacan to reduce its influence and power. The art and architecture at these sites emulate Teotihuacan forms, but also demonstrate an eclectic mix of motifs and iconography from other parts of Mesoamerica, particularly the Maya region. [ citation needed ]

The sudden destruction of Teotihuacan was common for Mesoamerican city-states of the Classic and Epi-Classic period. Many Maya states suffered similar fates in the coming centuries, a series of events often referred to as the Classic Maya collapse. Nearby, in the Morelos valley, Xochicalco was sacked and burned in 900 and Tula met a similar fate around 1150. [39]

There is a theory [40] that the collapse of Teotihuacan was caused by the devastation of its agriculture by the 535 CE eruption of the Ilopango volcano in El Salvador.

Aztec Period Edit

During the 1200s CE, Nahua migrants repopulated the area. By the 1300s, it had fallen under the sway of Huexotla, and in 1409 was assigned its own tlatoani, Huetzin, a son of the tlatoani of Huexotla. But his reign was cut short when Tezozomoc, tlatoani of Azcapotzalco, invaded Huexotla and the neighboring Acolhua lands in 1418. Huetzin was deposed by the invaders and Tezozomoc installed a man named Totomochtzin. Less than a decade later, in 1427, the Aztec Empire formed and Teotihuacan was vassalized once more by the Acolhua. [41]

Archeological evidence suggests that Teotihuacan was a multi-ethnic city, and while the official languages used by Teotihuacan is unknown, Totonac and Nahua, early forms of which were spoken by the Aztecs, seem to be highly plausible. [42] This apparent regionally diverse population of Teotihuacan can be traced back to a natural disaster that occurred prior to its population boom. At one point in time, Teotihuacan was rivaled by another basin power, Cuicuilco. [42] Both cities, roughly the same size and hubs for trade, both were productive centers of artisans and commerce. [42] Roughly around 100 BC however, the power dynamic changed when Mount Xitle, an active volcano, erupted, and heavily impacted Cuicuilco and the farmland that supported it. It is believed that the later exponential growth of Teotihuacan's population was due to the subsequent migration of those displaced by the eruption. [42] While this eruption is referenced as being the primary cause for the mass exodus, recent advancements of dating have shed light on an even earlier eruption. [43] The eruption of Popocatepetl in the middle of the first century preceded that of Xitle, and is believed to have begun the aforementioned degradation of agricultural lands, and structural damage to the city Xitle's eruption further instigated the abandonment of Cuicuilco. [43]

In the Tzacualli phase (c. 1–150 CE) , Teotihuacan saw a population growth of around 60 to 80 thousand people, most of which are believed to have come from the Mexican basin. [44] Following this growth however the influx of new residence slowed, and evidence suggests that, by the Miccaotli phase, c. 200 CE. The urban population had reached its maximum. [44]

In 2001, Terrence Kaufman presented linguistic evidence suggesting that an important ethnic group in Teotihuacan was of Totonacan or Mixe–Zoquean linguistic affiliation. [45] He uses this to explain general influences from Totonacan and Mixe–Zoquean languages in many other Mesoamerican languages, whose people did not have any known history of contact with either of the above-mentioned groups. Other scholars maintain that the largest population group must have been of Otomi ethnicity because the Otomi language is known to have been spoken in the area around Teotihuacan both before and after the Classic period and not during the middle period. [46]

Teotihuacan compounds show evidence of being segregated by class, of which three social strata could be distinguished. [47] High elites, intermediate elites, and the laboring class's dwelling spaces differ in ways that are supportive of these class divisions. [47] Residential architectural structures seem to be differentiable by the artistry and complexity of the structure itself. [47] Based on the quality of construction materials and sizes of rooms as well as the quality of assorted objects found in the residency, these dwellings might have been lived in by higher status households. [47] Teotihuacan dwellings that archeologists deemed of higher standard appear to radiate outwards from the Central district and along the Boulevard of the Dead, although there doesn't appear to be neat zonation into highly homogeneous districts. [47]

The laboring classes, which in and of itself was divided, was constituted from farmers and skilled craftsmen to the outer rural population of the city. [48] The inner situated craftspeople of various specialties were housed in complexes of apartments, distributed throughout. [48] These encampments, known as neighborhood centers, show evidence of providing the internal economic backbone for Teotihuacan. Established by the elite to showcase the sumptuary goods that the resident craftsmen provided, the diversity in goods was aided by the heavy concentration of immigrated individuals from different regions of Mesoamerica. [48] Along with archeological evidence pointing to one of the primary traded items being textiles, craftspeople capitalized on their mastery of painting, building, the performance of music and military training. [48] These neighborhood communities closely resembled individual compounds, often surrounded by physical barriers separating them from the others. In this way, Teotihuacan developed an internal economic competition that fueled productivity and helped create a social structure of its own that differed from the internal, central structure. [48] Aforementioned craftspeople specialized in performing typical actions which in turn left physical evidence in the form of bone abrasions. [48] Based on the wear of teeth archeologists were able to determine that some bodies worked with fibers with their frontal teeth, insinuating that they were involved with making nets, like those depicted in mural art. [48] Women's skeletons provided evidence that they might have sewn or painted for long periods of time, indicative of the headdresses that were created as well as pottery which was fired and painted. Wear on specific joints indicate the carrying of heavy objects over an extended period of their lives. Evidence of these heavy materials is found in the copious amounts of imported pottery, and raw materials found on site, such as rhyolitic glass shards, marble and slate. [48] The residences of the rural population of the city were in enclaves between the middle-class residences or the periphery of the city while smaller encampments filled with earthenware from other regions, also suggest that merchants were situated in their own encampments as well. [47]

Religion Edit

In An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya, Miller and Taube list eight deities: [49]

  • The Storm God [50]
  • The Great Goddess
  • The Feathered Serpent. [51] An important deity in Teotihuacan most closely associated with the Feathered Serpent Pyramid (Temple of the Feathered Serpent).
  • The Old God
  • The War Serpent. Taube has differentiated two different serpent deities whose depictions alternate on the Feathered Serpent Pyramid: the Feathered Serpent and what he calls the "War Serpent". Other researchers are more skeptical. [52]
  • The Netted Jaguar
  • The Pulque God
  • The Fat God. Known primarily from figurines and so assumed to be related to household rituals. [53]

Esther Pasztory adds one more: [54]

  • The Flayed God. Known primarily from figurines and so assumed to be related to household rituals. [53]

The consensus among scholars is that the primary deity of Teotihuacan was the Great Goddess of Teotihuacan. [55] The dominant civic architecture is the pyramid. Politics were based on the state religion religious leaders were the political leaders. [56] Religious leaders would commission artists to create religious artworks for ceremonies and rituals. The artwork likely commissioned would have been a mural or a censer depicting gods like the Great Goddess of Teotihuacan or the Feathered Serpent. Censers would be lit during religious rituals to invoke the gods including rituals with human sacrifice. [57]

Teotihuacanos practiced human sacrifice: human bodies and animal sacrifices have been found during excavations of the pyramids at Teotihuacan. Scholars believe that the people offered human sacrifices as part of a dedication when buildings were expanded or constructed. The victims were probably enemy warriors captured in battle and brought to the city for ritual sacrifice to ensure the city could prosper. [58] Some men were decapitated, some had their hearts removed, others were killed by being hit several times over the head, and some were buried alive. Animals that were considered sacred and represented mythical powers and military were also buried alive, imprisoned in cages: cougars, a wolf, eagles, a falcon, an owl, and even venomous snakes. [59]

Numerous stone masks have been found at Teotihuacan, and have been generally believed to have been used during a funerary context, [60] although some scholars call this into question, noting that masks "do not seem to have come from burials". [61]

Population Edit

Teotihuacan was one of, or was, the largest population in the Basin of Mexico during its occupation. Teotihuacan was a large pre-historic city that underwent massive population growth and sustained it over most of the city's occupancy. In the 100 AD the population could be estimated around 60,000-80,000, after 200 years of the city's occupancy, within 20 km 2 of the city. The population, eventually, stabilized around 100,000 people around 300 AD. [62]

The population reached its peak numbers around 400 to 500 AD. During 400 to 500 AD, the Xolalpan period, the city’s population was estimated to be 100,000 to 200,000 people. This number was achieved by estimating compound sizes to hold approximately 60 to 100, with 2,000 compounds. [62] These high numbers continued until the city started to decline between 600 and 700 AD. [2]

One of Teotihuacan’s neighborhood, Teopancazco, was occupied during most of the time Teotihuacan was as well. It showed that Teotihuacan was a multiethnic city that was broken up into areas of different ethnicities and workers. This neighborhood was important in two ways the high infant mortality rate and role of the different ethnicities. The high infant mortality rate was important within the neighborhood, and the city at large, as there are a large number of perinatal skeletons at Teopancazco. This suggests that the population of Teotihuacan was sustained and grew due to people coming into the city, rather than the population reproducing. The influx of people came from surrounding areas, bringing different ethnicities to the city. [63]

Writing and literature Edit

Recently [ timeframe? ] there was a big find in the La Ventilla district that contains over 30 signs and clusters on the floor of the patio. [64] Much of the findings in Teotihuacan suggest that the inhabitants had their own writing style. The figures were made "quickly and show control" giving the idea that they were practiced and were adequate for the needs of their society. [65] Other societies around Teotihuacan adopted some of the symbols that were used there. The inhabitants there rarely used any other societies' symbols and art. [66] These writing systems weren't anything like those of their neighbors, but the same writings show that they must have been aware of the other writings. [67]

Obsidian laboratories Edit

The processing of obsidian was the most developed art and the main source of wealth in Teotihuacan. The employees of obsidian laboratories amounted to at least 12% of the total population, according to reliable assessments of archeologists and the multitude of archeological findings. The laboratories produced tools or objects of obsidian of various types, intended for commercial transactions beyond the geographical boundaries of the city, such as figurines, blades, spikes, knife handles, jewelry or ornaments etc. About 25% of the activity of the obsidian laboratories was devoted to the production of blades and deburring for external markets. A specific type of obsidian blades, with a razor-sharp edge, was a ritual tool for use in human sacrifices, with which the priests removed the heart from the victims of the sacrifice. Obsidian came mainly from the mines of Pachuca (Teotihuacan) and its processing was the most important industry in the city, which had acquired the monopoly in the trade of obsidian in the broader Middle American region.

Knowledge of the huge ruins of Teotihuacan was never completely lost. After the fall of the city, various squatters lived on the site. During Aztec times, the city was a place of pilgrimage and identified with the myth of Tollan, the place where the sun was created. Today, Teotihuacan is one of the most noted archeological attractions in Mexico. [ citation needed ]

Excavations and investigations Edit

In the late 17th century Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora (1645–1700) made some excavations around the Pyramid of the Sun. [68] Minor archeological excavations were conducted in the 19th century. In 1905 Mexican archeologist and government official, in the regime of Porfirio Díaz, Leopoldo Batres [69] led a major project of excavation and restoration. The Pyramid of the Sun was restored to celebrate the centennial of the Mexican War of Independence in 1910. The site of Teotihuacan was the first to be expropriated for the national patrimony under the Law of Monuments (1897), giving jurisdiction under legislation for the Mexican state to take control. Some 250 plots were farmed on the site. Peasants who had been farming portions were ordered to leave and the Mexican government eventually paid some compensation to those individuals. [70] A feeder train line was built to the site in 1908, which allowed the efficient hauling of material from the excavations and later to bring tourists to the site. [71] In 1910, the International Congress of Americanists met in Mexico, coinciding with the centennial celebrations, and the distinguished delegates, such as its president Eduard Seler and vice president Franz Boas were taken to the newly finished excavations. [72]

Further excavations at the Ciudadela were carried out in the 1920s, supervised by Manuel Gamio. Other sections of the site were excavated in the 1940s and 1950s. The first site-wide project of restoration and excavation was carried out by INAH from 1960 to 1965, supervised by Jorge Acosta. This undertaking had the goals of clearing the Avenue of the Dead, consolidating the structures facing it, and excavating the Palace of Quetzalpapalotl. [73]

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Why do you have a pucture of the Magicians Pyramid, which is in Uxmal, Yucatan, and not in Teotihuacan?

The pyramid looks stunning. Adding to my travel bucket list!!

Love this old architecture, climbing to the top gives fantastic views. These ruins absolutely are magnificent piece of history

This is really one of the amazing facts of mexico. I heard that largest pyramid in the world in the mexico, is that one?

The largest such structure in the world is located in Mexico. It is known as the Great Pyramid of Cholula. It can be found in Puebla, Mexico. It is mostly covered by layers of dirt and has a church built on top of it, constructed in 1594. It is estimated to be four times the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza, located in Egypt and was built more than 2,300 years ago. It was only recently rediscovered in the early 1900s, having been abandoned sometime between the 7th and 8th centuries C.E.

A truly epic place. I backpacked it too and toured the main sights of Mexico City as well. Keep up the good blogs and good work. Safe travels. Jonny

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