Teotihuacan

(continuer en français) – Published: May 29, 2021

Located 31 miles, 50 kilometres, north of Mexico City, Teotihuacan was at the centre of a civilisation that extended its influence throughout southern Mexico and into Central America from 200 BC to 700 AD, with a peak around 450. At that time, about 200,000 people lived there. All that remains is the centre, consisting of temples and palaces, organised around the 1.5-mile-long, 2 kilometres, Alley of the Dead, lined with small pyramids, leading ceremoniously to the massive Pyramid of the Moon.

It is interesting to note that the original names have been lost, therefore archaeologists have struggled to imagine what they might have been while remaining consistent with what they already knew about this civilization.

La Ciudadela – The Citadel

This is how archaeologists have interpreted the purpose of this vast structure whose vocation would seem to be less military than ceremonial. It is an esplanade that could be used to gather a large crowd, surrounded by an enclosure enhanced by three-level platforms.

At the end of this esplanade stands the pyramid-shaped Temple of the Feathered Serpent, the Quetzalcoatl. Curiously, its former main facade has been obstructed by a new podium-like construction. It is this newer part, all being relative, that visitors can climb.

Although many decorative elements can still be seen, their cohesion has been lost. The National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City has reconstructed part of the facade, which is much more impressive than what remains on site.

The Museum also shows a tomb discovered at the back of the temple containing the victims of human sacrifices, their hands tied behind their backs. Several of these pits were found around the temple containing the remains of young men, probably sacrificed in rites that are beyond our understanding.

All around the esplanade, the enclosure wall, without military character, has been well restored, constituting an ensemble quite evocative of the grandeur of the site.

La Pirámide del Sol – The Pyramid of the Sun

Built around the year 100, it is the most massive and highest structure in Teotihuacan at 230 feet, 70 meters, high.

The walls were once covered with stucco paintings. There are several levels around the structure. Once a temple was located at the top, it has disappeared, a modest chamber remains without decoration.

From the top of the steep stairs one can see at the foot of the pyramid other temples for the secondary gods and living quarters. The base of the walls has been cleared, revealing the layout of the houses, which were quite opulent.

From there it is possible to see the pyramid of the Moon at the end of the Alley of the Dead.

La Pirámide de la Luna – The Pyramid of the Moon

Unlike the Pyramid of the Sun, which was built in a single campaign, the Pyramid of the Moon was built gradually. Several monuments were successively covered, and there are five phases. The pyramid is preceded by a square framed by small symmetrical pyramids, forming a majestic set.

Palacio de Quetzalpapalotl – Palace of Quetzalpapalotl

Near the Pyramid of the Moon, excavations revealed a rather vast palace occupied by the ruling elite, organised around a patio lined with finely sculpted colonnades. Traces of frescoes painted on the walls still remain.

Teotihuacan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.

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National Museum of Anthropology

The National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City has an impressive collection of pre-Columbian artefacts, those that once embellished the temples we visit today stripped of their most beautiful ornaments.

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Alley of the Dead, Teotihuacan, Mexico

Teotihuacan

Located 31 miles, 50 kilometres, north of Mexico City, Teotihuacan was at the centre of a civilisation that extended its influence throughout southern Mexico and into Central America from 200 BC to 700 AD, with a peak around 450. At that time, about 200,000 people lived there.

To be informed of upcoming articles, register here (it’s free).

22 comments

    • We still don’t know much about this civilization, less than about the Mayans, but the visit of the site remains impressive. Thank you for your comments.

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  1. An impressive construction and civilization for the time. The sacrifices would have been a downer if you were “lucky” to be chosen. It would be great if there was a written history that we could understand. Thanks for sharing. Enjoy your weekend. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was so disappointed when I didn’t have time to walk to the Quetzalcoatl but did see the reconstruction Anthropology Museum. Would’ve been such a site back at the time in all its glory. I loved my visit to Teotihuacan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s always disappointing to run out of time on a site like Teotihuacan, but if I have to choose, I think it’s best to experience the pyramid of the Sun and appreciate its mass.

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  3. I have been to many of the major tourist cities on both east and west coasts of Mexico. Your images here remind me that I have missed the entire midsection of this ancient civilization.

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    • Mexico is a land rich in history, with a succession of civilizations that have left tangible traces that we have yet to interpret. A bit like in Europe where the ancient ruins allow everyone to physically approach the ancient times.

      Liked by 1 person

    • For some reasons, Teotihuacan is less promoted than the Mayan sites in Yucatan. However, it is a milestone in the civilizations of the region and is also a spectacular site that deserves to be visited.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hours are not very long, the site would close at 5pm and there is plenty to see to spend the day. There is a circular road and three car parks for each of the three areas. I had my own car and in order to refresh myself between each part of the site, I went from one car park to the other. Otherwise, it is possible to walk the entire Alley of the Dead, the hardest part being getting back to the starting point.

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    • What I find interesting about pre-Columbian civilizations is that they developed without contact with the rest of the world. And yet there is a kind of parallelism in the organisation of society and in human behaviour.

      Liked by 1 person

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