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Teotihuacan, the Birthplace of the Gods

March 27, 2012 - Mexico
Teotihuacan, the Birthplace of the Gods

Before we set off for another adventure, I believe we need to catch up a bit on our recent whereabouts. Remember the trip around Central Mexico we took at the turn of the year? Well, that didn’t finish in Cholula. After staying couple days in Puebla, the next morning we visited Cholula, the biggest pyramid in the World. It was quite impressive, but frankly not even remotely as impressive as the tourists “must see” attraction near Mexico City – the old Aztec city of Teotihuacan.

Teotihuacan, is  just 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Mexico City, which makes it a perfect day trip destination for side trips from the country’s capital. The main attraction are of course the pyramids, which are the largest structures built in the pre-Columbian Americas. Apart from them, there are also large residential complexes, and the famous Avenida de los Muertos (Avenue of the Dead).

We arrived at the archaeological site mid afternoon and started our visit with a quick walk around the museum, set up next to the ancient buildings, gravel parking lot and wooden tiendas (stores, selling cheap, Chinese made, pseudo-Aztec, pre-Columbian tourists junk). In fact, with 83 square kilometres (32 sq mi) the site is so large, that there are five different entrances, each capable of handling thousands of visitors.

In the times of it’s splendor, Teotihuacan is believed to have been home for as many as 125,000 people, which makes it one of the largest metropolis of that era, not only in Mesoamerica, but World wide. Some of the very well preserved structures are supposedly multi-level living quarters, but the two, most remarkable are of course the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon.

A model of Teotihuacan, with a fraction of the Pyramid of the Sun in lower left corner, Avenue of the Dead running across center and the Pyramid of the Moon in upper right corner.
A model of Teotihuacan, with a fraction of the Pyramid of the Sun in lower left corner, Avenue of the Dead running across center and the Pyramid of the Moon in upper right corner.04-Jan-2012 16:47, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 400
View from the Pyramid of the Sun (half way to the top)  towards the Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, Mexico.
View from the Pyramid of the Sun (half way to the top) towards the Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, Mexico.04-Jan-2012 17:05, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
The Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan, Mexico.
The Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan, Mexico.04-Jan-2012 16:58, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
 
Nadia, Agnieszka and Alex standing on the top of the Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan, Mexico. In the background, the Pyramid of the Moon and the plaza.
Nadia, Agnieszka and Alex standing on the top of the Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan, Mexico. In the background, the Pyramid of the Moon and the plaza.04-Jan-2012 17:12, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200
Alex, in the middle of the plaza in front of the Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, Mexico.
Alex, in the middle of the plaza in front of the Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, Mexico.04-Jan-2012 17:46, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
Nadia posing on the stairs of the Pyramid of the Moon in Teotihuacan, Mexico. Behind her, the plaza, Avenue of the Dead and the Pyramid of the Sun on the side.
Nadia posing on the stairs of the Pyramid of the Moon in Teotihuacan, Mexico. Behind her, the plaza, Avenue of the Dead and the Pyramid of the Sun on the side.04-Jan-2012 17:52, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200
 
Nadia and Alex on the Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, Mexico.
Nadia and Alex on the Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, Mexico.04-Jan-2012 17:55, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
The entire family standing on the Pyramid of the Moon, with the Pyramid of the Sun in the background, the ceremonial plaza and the Avenue of the Dead to the side.
The entire family standing on the Pyramid of the Moon, with the Pyramid of the Sun in the background, the ceremonial plaza and the Avenue of the Dead to the side.04-Jan-2012 17:57, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200
Sitting on top of one of the smaller structures around the ceremonial plaza, with the Pyramid of the Moon as backdrop. Teotihuacan, Mexico.
Sitting on top of one of the smaller structures around the ceremonial plaza, with the Pyramid of the Moon as backdrop. Teotihuacan, Mexico.04-Jan-2012 18:08, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.011 sec, ISO 200
 
Alex with the Pyramid of the Sun, the ceremonial plaza and the Avenue of the Dead in the background. Picture taken on the Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, Mexico.
Alex with the Pyramid of the Sun, the ceremonial plaza and the Avenue of the Dead in the background. Picture taken on the Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, Mexico.04-Jan-2012 18:01, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200
Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, Mexico viewed from the top of one of the samller structures around the ceremonial plaza.
Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, Mexico viewed from the top of one of the samller structures around the ceremonial plaza.04-Jan-2012 18:05, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 200
A view from the sacrificial platform in the center of the plaza towards the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent. The Avenue of the Dead in front, the Pyramid of the Sun to the left. Teotihuacan, Mexico.
A view from the sacrificial platform in the center of the plaza towards the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent. The Avenue of the Dead in front, the Pyramid of the Sun to the left. Teotihuacan, Mexico.04-Jan-2012 18:17, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200
 
The street vendors at the Teotihuacan archaeological site even take credit cards...
The street vendors at the Teotihuacan archaeological site even take credit cards...04-Jan-2012 18:27, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 108.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 400
Alex and Nadia running towards the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent on the Avenue of the Dead in Teotihuacan, Mexico. In the background, the Pyramid of the Moon.
Alex and Nadia running towards the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent on the Avenue of the Dead in Teotihuacan, Mexico. In the background, the Pyramid of the Moon.04-Jan-2012 18:29, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 108.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 400
Nadia and Alex finger tracing the letters on the entrance sign. Teotihuacan, Mexico.
Nadia and Alex finger tracing the letters on the entrance sign. Teotihuacan, Mexico.04-Jan-2012 18:40, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 108.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 800
 

The original name of the city is actually unknown. Teotihuacan, which means the Birthplace of the Gods, was assigned many years after the fall of the city. The earliest buildings date back to 200 BCE, and it’s still unclear who developed them. The sudden decline and fall of the site is estimated to have taken place in the second part of the 6th century CE.

The largest structure is the seat of the emperor, the Pyramid of the Sun – second largest in the World, dwarfed only by the one in… Cholula. As a side note here – even though I didn’t plan it that way – accidentally and quite unwillingly, we’ve managed to see the two largest pyramids in the World, all on the same day! And quite frankly, we didn’t even realize that until doing the long overdue homework of checking facts in Wikipedia.

The second largest structure in Teotihuacan is the Pyramid of the Moon. Even though smaller than the imperial structure, the layout of the entire city suggests, it has been the central point of this ancient metropoly. The Avenue of the Dead  runs in front of the Pyramid of the Sun, but it ends (or starts?) on a large plaza in front of the Pyramid of the Moon. That suggests, that the ceremonial sacrifices were either starting or taking place in front of the smaller pyramid, the seat of the religious leaders.

On the other end of the Avenue of the Dead is the third, smallest of the three pyramids of Teotihuacan. The Temple of the Feathered Serpent is famous mainly because of the fairly recent discovery of hundreds of bodies buried underneath it. Most probably, those were the victims of the ceremonial sacrifices.

Sounds that, living in Mexico in the old times was even more exciting then today…

4 thoughts on “Teotihuacan, the Birthplace of the Gods

susan carol

Thanks for sharing your travels and photos.  I live in Los Cabos and travel by car and write about Mexico as well.  I apprciate re-visiting some sites through your eyes, as well and finding new ones to check out, and look forward to your travel stories as you go north.
Buen viaje!
Susan Carol
Editor Destino Los Cabos y Mar de Cortés Magazine
Link to current issue:   http://issuu.com/destinoloscabos/docs/0_destino_magazine_sp_2012?mode=window&backgroundColor=%23222222
 
 
 

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    rbajan

     @susan carol We are planning to take a ferry from Mazatlan to La Paz and do a little loop around southern Baja and then head north towards Ensenada and probably cross the border in Tecate before end of April. Any travel advice or places to stay (tent camping) you can recommend on Baja…? Thanks in advance! 

    Reply
MargaretZdzieszynski

This is great description and wonderful picture -This little Olo, OMG – he is a little actor, and my sweet Nadia. Thank you for posting it. Until now I thought The Chinchintza was the biggest pyramid of Maja’s. Good reading!

Reply
    rbajan

     @MargaretZdzieszynski Thanks Margaret! As far as the sizes of the pyramids, here’s a nice comparison chart:
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3e/Comparison_of_pyramids.svg
    As you can see the pyramids in Egipt are taller, but those in Cholula and Teotihuacan have much larger bases. On the chart, El Castillo in Chichen Itza doesn’t look much bigger then the pyramid in Louvre…;-)

    Reply

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