Teotihuacan, Pyramid of the Sun and Avenue of the Dead
Teotihuacan, Pyramid of the Sun and Avenue of the Dead, from the Pyramid of the Moon
Teotihuacan was an ancient Mesoamerican city located in a sub valley of the Valley of Mexico, located in the State of Mexico near modern-day Mexico City, known today as the site of many of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids built in the pre-Columbian Americas. Apart from the pyramids, Teotihuacan is also anthropologically significant for its complex, multi-family residential compounds; the Avenue of the Dead; and the small portion of its vibrant murals that have been exceptionally well-preserved. Additionally, Teotihuacan exported fine obsidian tools that garnered high prestige and widespread utilization throughout Mesoamerica.
The city is thought to have been established around 100 BC, with major monuments continuously under construction until about AD 250. The city may have lasted until sometime between the 7th and 8th centuries AD, but its major monuments were sacked and systematically burned around 550 AD. At its zenith, perhaps in the first half of the 1st millennium AD, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas, with a population estimated at 125,000 or more, making it at least the sixth largest city in the world during its epoch. Teotihuacan was even home to multi-floor apartment compounds built to accommodate this large population. The term Teotihuacan (or Teotihuacano) is also used for the whole civilization and cultural complex associated with the site.
Although it is a subject of debate whether Teotihuacan was the center of a state empire, its influence throughout Mesoamerica is well documented; evidence of Teotihuacano presence can be seen at numerous sites in Veracruz and the Maya region. The later Aztecs saw these magnificent ruins and claimed a common ancestry with the teotihuacanos, modifying and adopting aspects of their culture. The ethnicity of the inhabitants of Teotihuacan is also a subject of debate. Possible candidates are the Nahua, Otomi, or Totonac ethnic groups. Scholars have also suggested that Teotihuacan was a multi-ethnic state.
The site covers a total surface area of 83 square kilometres and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. It is the most visited archaeological site in Mexico.
The city's broad central avenue, called "Avenue of the Dead" (a translation from its Nahuatl name Miccoatli), is flanked by impressive ceremonial architecture, including the immense Pyramid of the Sun (third largest in the World after the Great Pyramid of Cholula and the Great Pyramid of Giza). Along the Avenue of the Dead are many smaller talud-tablero platforms. These were ceremonial platforms that were topped with temples.
The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest building in Teotihuacan and one of the largest in Mesoamerica. Found along the Avenue of the Dead, in between the Pyramid of the Moon and the Ciudadela, and in the shadow of the massive mountain Cerro Gordo, the pyramid is part of a large complex in the heart of the city.
The name Pyramid of the Sun comes from the Aztecs, who visited the city of Teotihuacan centuries after it was abandoned; the name given to the pyramid by the Teotihuacanos is unknown. It was constructed in two phases. The first construction stage, around 100 C.E., brought the pyramid to nearly the size it is today. The second round of construction resulted in its completed size of 224.9 meters across and 75 meters high, making it the third largest pyramid in the world. The second phase also saw the construction of an altar atop of the pyramid, which has not survived into modern times. The Adosada platform was added to the pyramid in the early third century.
The orientation of the structure may hold some anthropological significance. The pyramid is oriented slightly northwest of the horizon point of the setting sun on two days a year, August 12 and April 29, which are about one divinatory calendar year apart for the Teotihuacanos. The day of August 12 is significant because it would have marked the date of the beginning of the present era and the initial day of the Maya long-count calendar. In addition, many important astrological events can be viewed from the location of the pyramid that are important in terms of both agriculture and belief systems of the ancient society.