When the Aztecs discovered the abandoned city of Teotihuacan some 1500 years after it had been populated, there were very little clues as to when or who had lived there, or why much of the city and it’s temples had been burned. The city was so large and it’s pyramids were so tall that the Aztecs assumed giants had built it and gave it the Nahautl name of Teotihuacan “Birthplace of the Gods”
On our recent trip to Mexico City and to get Mr E enthused about another pile of old rocks, we booked a half day tour with an archaeologist guide. We arranged the tour through viator.com and can highly recommend it, especially if old stones gets you excited! I’m a big archeology fan (Thank you Indian Jones & Dr Jago Cooper) hence why I make Mr E visit these type of tourist attractions. The tour was with @AmigoTours and our local guide for the trip was Leonardo, he was extremely knowledgeable, with just the right amount of interesting information. We had an early minibus pickup and our group of 13 arrived at the site by 8am for a cool quiet start before the other tourist coaches arrived.
So to show my mother we’re experiencing some culture and not just holibobbing about, here’s some history we learnt about the ancient city.
“Te o ti wakan” is located 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, it is considered one of the most important archaeological sites of the pre-columbian Americas.
It was built during the period 100BC until it’s decline in 650AD, at its peak 125,000 people lived there joined together by their powerful cultures, religion and beliefs. Its empire dominated the region of central Mexico, spreading to both Pacific and Gulf coasts for trade, replenishment of materials not available in the region and possibly to gather a few slaves for sacrificial purposes. Skeletal evidence unearthed found heads were forcibly removed.
The city covers 32 square miles, dominating features being the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon with the Avenue of the Dead running for 4kms straight down the middle of the city. The layout of the city is highly significant, as archaeologists have been able to determine this was a well designed and planned city based on their belief system. I’m total nerd for all the spiritual star, mystic calendar type Aztec stuff but these architectural figures blew me away – The city is designed using a consistent measurement unit of 83cm, thought to be gauged from the middle of the chest along the open arm to fingers. The measurement of the base of the Pyramid of the Sun is 260 x 83cm and faces west toward the setting sun. The base measurement of the Pyramid of the Moon is 105 x 83cm. Add 260 + 105 equalling 365 the number of days in the solar calendar and 260 is believed to be the number of days in their ritual calendar based around religious events – amazing!
We were already at altitude of about 7000ft so the climb up the 200ft Pyramid of the Sun, which is the 3rd largest in the world did seem a little daunting especially with my flabby old cake thighs! But with some rest stops at each platform to calm my frantic heart, we made it to the top. The views were incredible, unfortunately it was a cloudy day when we visited so the photo’s really don’t show its splendour but we were thankful the sun wasn’t beating down on us for the climb.
The city is spread out over an organised grid system of separate multi family residential compounds. The city is built upwards along the Avenue of the Dead and is designed like a system of locks with rising terraces finally reaching the Pyramid of the Moon. The lower the social caste the further away the group would be. Rulers and the nobility lived on the highest terraces with ceremonial temples for their religious rituals on each platform.
The 3rd largest structure in the city is that of the Temple of the Plumed Serpent. It is built with 7 stepped bodies in an architectural style of slope and panel design. The panels are decorated with serpents moving over seashells with their heads emerging from flower petals. It would have been exceptionally beautiful, colourfully painted and topped with a wooden ceremonial temple.
Religious or sacred artworks depicting their Gods of the earth, sun, water and skies throughout the city would have bound its people together, very much as the church and its icons in today’s society still do. Quetzalcoatl was considered the creator of human activities on earth, creating land and the calendar divisions. This temple was thought to be created to worship their calendar cycles.
With the decline of the city, either due to internal wars or drought there is little to explain who the leaders were, as their temples were burnt. However recent excavations under The Temple of the Plumed Serpent have uncovered a cave filled with precious jade statues, carved shells, rubber balls and jaguar remains, all pointing to the hope that archaeologists will uncover remains of its kings. In November 2014 pools of liquid mercury were found which they might have used to try to look into the underworld for their ancestors. The archaeologists have a lot more to excavate and I will certainly be keeping up to date on any developments that may unravel the mysteries of this amazing City of the Gods.