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By on in Ancient World

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Teotihuacán is a large ancient city located in what is now the San Juan municipality. It was the largest pre-Columbian city in the Americas during the first century AD, and peaked between 150AD and 450AD where it dominated Mesoamerica with had a population of between 150,000 and 250,000 people.

The name Teotihuacán is also used to refer to the civilisation and culture of the people that occupy this city. Its influence was spread throughout Mesoamerica where evidence of Teotihuacano presence can be seen at numerous sites in Veracruz and the Maya region. The stepped pyramids that were quite prominent in Maya and Aztec architecture came from Teotihuacán.

There are various interpretations of the name, some of which include 'birthplace of the gods' and 'place of those who have the road of the gods'.

The city is known to be a centre of industry, a home to many potters, jewellers and craftsmen. Teotihuacán is also known for producing obsidian artefacts. Unfortunately, there are no ancient Teotihuacano non-ideographic texts in existence, but there are inscriptions from Maya cities that show Teotihuacán nobility travelled to and perhaps conquered local rulers as far away as Honduras. Most of what we know about the culture at Teotihuacán comes from the murals that adorn the site and from hieroglyphic inscriptions made by the Maya describing their encounters with Teotihuacano conquerors.

View of the Avenue of the Dead and the Pyramid of the Sun, from the Pyramid of the Moon
View of the Avenue of the Dead and the Pyramid of the Sun, from the Pyramid of the Moon

Knowledge of the huge ruins of Teotihuacán was never lost, however. Throughout the ages after the fall of the city, squatters have lived on the site. During the Aztec times, the city was a place of pilgrimage and was identified with the myth of Tollan, the place where the sun was created. Teotihuacán also astonished the Spanish conquistadors during the Spanish Invasion in the sixteenth century. Today Teotihuacán is still one of the most noted archaeological attractions in Mexico.

The city of Teotihuacán is laid out on a grid, which is offset 15.5° from the cardinal points. The main road (Street of the Dead) runs from 15.5° east of north to 15.5° west of south, while its most impressive structure, the Pyramid of the Sun, is directly oriented to a point 15.5° north of west which is the exact position on the horizon at which the sun sets on August 13.

The sitting of the Pyramid of the Moon at the far end of the Street of the Dead is also carefully aligned such that a lint of sight goes directly over the top of the Pyramid of the Sun and marks the meridian, thus allowing the priests of the city to fix the times of noon and midnight with complete accuracy.

Fall of a City

Archaeologists continue to argue about the decline and fall of Teotihuacán. Did a marauding tribe sweep down from the north, driving civilian populations before them? Did the population rebel against the priesthood, corrupt in its power, or simply leave in a mass exodus?

There are no firm answers to these question, but work on the site still continues to produce important artefact's crafted by these people.

Stone mask discovered at Teotihuacan, 3rd to 7th century AD.
Stone mask discovered at Teotihuacan, 3rd to 7th century AD.
Front view of the Pyramid of the Sun
Front view of the Pyramid of the Sun

Last updated on: Sunday 18th June 2017




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