2015 APR – TEOTIHUACAN

Model of Teotihuacan in the adjoining museum - Avenue of the Dead with the Pyramid of the Sun on the right, and the Pyramid of the Moon at the far end of the avenue

Model of Teotihuacan in the adjoining museum – Avenue of the Dead with the Pyramid of the Sun on the right, and the Pyramid of the Moon at the far end of the avenue

The archeological city of Teotihaucan (Tay-o-tee-wah-kahn) was inhabited from 100BC to 700AD by a group of inhabitants whose origins have been lost in time. The most widely accepted theory is that they were a proto-Nahua group. This ancient city pre-dates Christ by 100 years.

Our guide took great pains to point out that the Aztecs did NOT build this city, but that they only occupied it after the city was abandoned.

Nor did the Mayans ever live here; they confined themselves to the Yucatan region.

Stone artifact in the museum - they have lots of stunning stone examples

Stone artifact in the museum – they have lots of stunning stone examples

The economy of Teotihuacan was based on agriculture, with some fishing, hunting, and gathering. As the population increased so we see the division of labor and the centralization of power as the region became a permanent settlement.

Thus it was possible to build the huge structures thanks to the large work force that became available to the priestly class which controlled ceremonies, rites, rituals, politics, administration and the economy. The “high” class were those with the most responsibilities. There was no money in those days and all exchanges were done by barter, thus the ruling classes were not the rich but rather the priests, doctors, and teachers.   These 3 social groups lived within the city, while all others lived and worked in the fields outside the city.

Notwithstanding their status, the 3 social groups’ houses were small and really only consisted of sleeping quarters. All living and socializing was done outside the home in small squares associated to a group of dwellings where the community cooking took place, games were played, and of course, gossiping.

Necklace of one of those with status - probably a teacher

Necklace of one of those with status – probably a teacher

Religion was of prime importance and their gods were associated with water, the earth, and fertility.

By 700AD the city was slowly abandoned, but the exact cause is unknown. Some theories offer a famine caused by droughts which forced the people to migrate to greener pastures. Another is that an intense struggle for power divided the ruling class and order broke down. Another theory is that and invasion made the people flee the city and not return. There is evidence of fires that destroyed some of the buildings in the Avenue of the Dead, so this latter theory may be possible.

 

THE CITADEL

 

Detail on the wall of the pyramid of the Feathered Serpent

Detail on the wall of the pyramid of the Feathered Serpent

Our tour started at The Citadel, which is a large quadrangle that can hold 10,000 people and where ceremonies and festivals were held. The buildings around the square once had small temples built upon them of wood and other materials that have disappeared over time.

All the staircases are very steep on all the pyramids, including this one to the Feathered Serpent

All the staircases are very steep on all the pyramids, including this one to the Feathered Serpent

Behind the main building is the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent, and was built around 1 to 200AD. Another layer was added between 200 and 450AD which added the staircase and covered the façade with serpents and gods. Graves of warriors sacrificed as offerings have also been discovered. They were wearing elaborate jewelry of shells, obsidian, and colored stones. Their hands were tied behind their backs, so I guess they didn’t go willingly.

Wherever the archeologists are doing restoration, they place these little stones in the cement to indicate their rebuilding / fixes

Wherever the archeologists are doing restoration, they place these little stones in the cement to indicate their rebuilding / fixes

 

AVENUE OF THE DEAD

This is a North-South highway that runs for 2km from the Pyramid of the Moon to the Citadel, and on south.

Avenue of the Dead from the top of the Pyramid of the Moon

Avenue of the Dead from the top of the Pyramid of the Moon

As you walk north from the Citadel towards the Moon, the terrain rises gradually. The builders of the city took advantage of this slope to create aqueducts that moved the water throughout the city, and then out into the farm fields. As you approach the Moon pyramid, there are 6 “plazas” that were actually used as pools or reservoirs when necessary. The water was fed into the plaza/resevoirs via the aqueducts, and then carefully dispersed.

The architects also took the rising terrain into consideration when building and the Pyramid of the Moon is the exact same height as the Pyramid of the Sun. Even though they are considerably different in size and height, when viewed as a straight line over the descending terrain, they are the same height.

View from the Pyramid of the Moon - all structures built from high (4 stories) to low (1 storey) over the sloping terrain

View from the Pyramid of the Moon – all structures built from high (4 stories) to low (1 storey) over the sloping terrain

Additionally the structures that run the length of the Avenue of the Dead are also the same height. At the Moon end they are 4 floors, then further down the Avenue they are 3 floors, and so on until at the Sun pyramid they are barely 4ft high. Again, all the buildings compensate for the descending terrain and maintain the same overall height.

Red pigment is from a cactus bacteria - and is still vivid centuries later and exposed to the weather!

Red pigment is from a cactus bacteria – and is still vivid centuries later and exposed to the weather!

The buildings are of 2 types:

  • 1) the onion type as they overbuilt the previous substructure with a new layer every 102 years; diggings have found complete homes below the current home that is decorated with sculptures and gorgeous murals in perfect condition
  • 2) the box type where “boxes” were built next to each other and filled with stones and soil to form the core, making the interior of the pyramids completely solid, not hollow in the least.
Teotihuacan is built in layers.  When this layer was uncovered, the artifacts below were in pristine condition

Teotihuacan is built in layers. When this layer was uncovered, the artifacts below were in pristine condition

Another example of the original untouched wall and the rebuilt wall with the little lave stones embedded in the concrete

Another example of the original untouched wall and the rebuilt wall with the little lave stones embedded in the concrete

PYRAMID OF THE SUN

This is the largest structure in Teotihuacan. The tragedy of this pyramid is that some Mexican president around 1905 wanted the sides and lines exposed for some celebration at the time – and he wanted his photo taken on the top. To complete the work in time, archeologists dynamited the sides of the pyramid to remove vegetation that grew there. The damage is still obvious today – but the president did get this photo op. Go figure.

Pyramid of the Sun

Pyramid of the Sun

The pyramid is around 180 foot high. The stairs at the base are rather wide and easy to negotiate. The next set of stairs are narrower. And the final set of stairs are so narrow and steep that you have to place your foot sideways on each stair and hold onto the provided rope for balance.

Recently they found a tunnel leading under the pyramid, and have unearthed 50,000 archeological artifacts. They were not yet on display in the museum.

 

PYRAMID OF THE MOON

This is the second biggest structure in Teotihuacan.

Pyramid of the Moon taken (by Francisco) from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun

Pyramid of the Moon taken (by Francisco) from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun

it was built around 0-200 AD and added to between 200-450 AD.  This pyramid honors the goddess of Water who is associated with the moon.

Plaza of the Moon taken from the top of the Pyramid of the Moon by Francisco.  Thats me sitting on the steps of the nearest building waiting for him - Hell No, I wasnt climbing that thing!

Plaza of the Moon taken from the top of the Pyramid of the Moon by Francisco. Thats me sitting on the steps of the nearest building – waiting for him – Hell No, I wasn’t climbing that thing!

 

Sundry pictures within the palaces in the plazas:

Carved stone wall

Carved stone wall

The colors are still vivid today - reds, greens, yellows - all extracted from plants

The colors are still vivid today – reds, greens, yellows – all extracted from plants

Different colored stone used for this wall stone carving

Different colored stone used for this wall stone carving

Gorgeous wall carvings in one of the palaces

Gorgeous wall carvings in one of the palaces

 

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