Teotihuacan also written Teotihuacán is an enormous archaeological site in the Basin of Mexico, just 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Mexico City, containing some of the largest pyramidal structures built in the pre-Columbian Americas. Apart from the pyramidal structures, Teotihuacan is also known for its large residential complexes, the Avenue of the Dead, and numerous colorful, well-preserved murals. Additionally, Teotihuacan produced a thin orange pottery style that spread through Mesoamerica.
The city is thought to have been established around 100 BC and continued to be built until about 250 AD. The city may have lasted until sometime between the 7th and 8th centuries 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 of perhaps 125,000 or more, placing it among the largest cities of the World in this period.
Teotihuacan began as a new religious center in the Mexican Highland around the first century AD. This city came to be the largest and most populated center in the New World. Teotihuacan was even home to multi-floor apartment compounds built to accommodate this large population. The civilization and cultural complex associated with the site is also referred to as Teotihuacan or Teotihuacano.
The city and the archaeological site are located in what is now the San Juan Teotihuacán municipality in the State of México, approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) northeast of Mexico City. The site covers a total surface area of 83 square kilometres (32 sq mi) and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. It is the most visited archaeological site in Mexico.
Origins and foundation
The early history of Teotihuacan is quite mysterious, and the origin of its founders is debated. For many years, archaeologists believed it was built by the Toltec. This belief was based on colonial period texts, such as the Florentine Codex, which attributed the site to the Toltecs.
However, the Nahuatl word "Toltec" generally means "craftsman of the highest level" and may not always refer to the Toltec civilization centered at Tula, Hidalgo. Since Toltec civilization flourished centuries after Teotihuacan, the people could not have been the city's founders.
The city reached its peak in 450 AD, when it was the center of a powerful culture whose influence extended through much of the Mesoamerican region. At its peak, the city covered over 30 km sq (over 11½ square miles), and perhaps housed a population of 150,000 people, with one estimate reaching as high as 250,000. Various districts in the city housed people from across the Teotihuacano region of influence, which spread south as far as Guatemala.
Archaeological evidence suggests that Teotihuacan was a multi-ethnic city, with distinct quarters occupied by Otomi, Zapotec, Mixtec, Maya and Nahua peoples. The Totonacs have always maintained that they were the ones who built it. The Aztecs repeated that story, but it has not been corroborated by archaeological findings.
In 2001, Terrence Kaufman presented linguistic evidence suggesting that an important ethnic group in Teotihuacan was of Totonacan and/or Mixe–Zoquean linguistic affiliation. He uses this to explain general influences from Totonacan and Mixe–Zoquean languages in many other Mesoamerican languages, whose people did not have any known history of contact with either of the above-mentioned groups.
Other scholars maintain that the largest population group must have been of Otomi ethnicity, because the Otomi language is known to have been spoken in the area around Teotihuacan both before and after the classic period and not during the middle period.
In their landmark 1992 volume, An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya, Miller and Taube list eight deities:
- The Storm God
- The Great Goddess
- The Feathered Serpent. An important deity in Teotihuacan; most closely associated with the Feathered Serpent Pyramid.
- The Old God
- The War Serpent. Taube has differentiated two different serpent deities whose depictions alternate on the Feathered Serpent Pyramid: the Feathered Serpent and what he calls the "War Serpent". Other researchers are more skeptical.
- The Netted Jaguar
- The Pulque God
- The Fat God. Known primarily from figurines and so assumed to be related to household rituals.
Knowledge of the huge ruins of Teotihuacan was never completely lost. After the fall of the city, various squatters lived on the site. During Aztec times, the city was a place of pilgrimage and identified with the myth of Tollan, the place where the sun was created. Teotihuacan astonished the Spanish conquistadores during the post-conquest era. Today Teotihuacan is one of the most noted archaeological attractions in Mexico.