Teotihuacán was once the largest city on the American continent and remains one of the most enigmatic to this day. When the Aztecs discovered the city in the 14th century, it had been deserted for more than 700 years. At its heyday around 300 AD, over 150,000 residents lived in an area of around 20 km². The center of the city is the processional way (»street of the dead«). It is over 1 km long and leads from the Temple of Quetzalcoatl to the Pyramid of the Moon. The huge pyramid of the sun, the third largest pyramid on earth, is also located on it.
|Official title:||Pre-Columbian city of Teotihuacan|
|Cultural monument:||the “place where the gods were created”, with the ceremonial street called the “street of the dead” by the Aztecs, on which the so-called “citadel”, the “superimposed buildings”, the pyramid of the sun with temple, the place of the The moon pyramid and the moon temple, the “substructure of the feathered sea snail” and the so-called “Viking group” are located, as well as buildings such as the Tepantitla, Tetitla and Zacuala palaces|
|Location:||Teotihuacan, northeast of Mexico City|
|Meaning:||the most important ceremonial center of classical Central America|
|1st century BC Chr.||Ascent from Teotihuacan|
|1./2. Century AD||Development of various cult complexes, including the gigantic Sun Temple and the “Street of the Dead”|
|3rd century||Expansion of the city-state’s influence to large parts of Central America|
|16. 1. 378||only reliable date regarding Teotihuacán: on »Stele 3« in Tikal (Guatemala) reference to the coup by »Rauchfrosch«, who came from Teotihuacán, against the rightful divine ruler »Jaguar Claw«|
|550-600||probably during this period the destruction of Teotihuacán|
|1864||first archaeological investigations|
|1917-22||Exploration and restoration of the “Citadel”|
|1962||Exposure and restoration of the Quetzal Butterfly Palace|
|Late 2011||Discovery of offerings in the center of the Teotihuacán Pyramid of the Sun from around AD 100.|
City of gods
According to thesciencetutor, the largest religious metropolis of classical Mexico is, in the secular interpretation of the Aztec word “Teotihuacán”, a place where a person can see himself elevated to a god in his imagination. Records of the Spanish Franciscan monk Bernardino de Sahagún, who came to Mexico in the course of the Spanish Conquista, confirm this view.
The first impression is overwhelming: a ceremonial center with a two-kilometer-long and 45-meter-wide processional street, called the “street of the dead” by the Aztecs, and the two great pyramids, the moon and the sun pyramids, that attract the eye. This reverberation of a lost people, a metropolis once estimated to have up to 200,000 residents, appears modest compared to today’s metropolises of millions and their skyscrapers, but in relation to the time of their creation it must still be regarded as special. The creators of these mightiest structures in ancient America were probably Toltecs; but it is certain not. The builders who have left no previously discovered records for posterity, took over the characteristics of the ceremonial centers created by the Olmecs in La Venta around the 10th century BC. Only in Teotihuacán the dimensions were exaggerated. It seems as if one wanted to bring the earth closer to the sky. The buildings are enthroned high above the plain, surrounded by hills and volcanic cones. Many steep stairs and ramps had to be climbed to the top of the pyramids to be close to the sky. There, in a small temple that stands on a giant pyramidal pedestal, human sacrifices were made until they were abolished and replaced by animal sacrifices, in order – following a mythological understanding of nature – to ensure the cycle of nature. The shape of the buildings – filled inside with air-dried bricks and rubble, its exterior is encased in a coat of layers of stone and stucco – it is determined by cosmic principles and mythological ideas of heaven and earth. Stairs and steps as well as niche fields represent the number of years in a cycle, the number of months and days in a year.
The “Street of the Dead” ends at the Moon Temple and the square moon square in front of it, which is slightly larger than the plan of the moon pyramid and is surrounded by mostly three-tier platforms, which in turn line the “Street of the Dead” and can be found everywhere in this metropolis. The pyramid of the sun is – like the Temple of Quetzalcóatl, which rises in the middle of the so-called “Citadel” – also on the kilometer-long ceremonial street of the “City of the Gods”. Axiality, symmetry and hierarchy can be found in these structures as an architectural language of form. But above all, symbolism is reflected in the structural design.
Quetzalcêatl, the god who gives life and fertility, and Tlaloc, the rain god, adorn the temple of Quetzalcóatl as a feathered snake or a mask-like head. Twelve snake heads – six each line the axial staircase – and the number of stone heads from Quetzalcêatl and Tlaloc in the filling fields of the individual levels of the pyramidal temple complex result in 366 “images of the gods”, the number of days in a year including the additional day of the leap year. Four axial staircases of 13 steps each result in a total of 52, a number that, according to the solar calendar, determines a cycle that, as we understand it, takes on the value of a century. Thirteen is the number of months in a year if the month is based on 28 days.
Up to the present day the nameless empire, which – like Greece once ruled ancient Europe – ruled classical Central America, is still a mystery. The almost millennium-spanning history of this empire, in which trade exchange and income from tribute payments were likely to have contributed to the prosperity, ended without any reliable knowledge of the fall of the “city of the gods”.