Today we are going to have an early morning (7:30am) Teotihuacán pyramids tour with a private archeologist.
The holy city of Teotihuacán (in the náhuatl dialect means “the place where the gods were created" or “The City of the Gods") is situated 48 km northeast of Mexico City. Built between the 1st and 7th centuries A.D., it is characterized by the vast size of its monuments, laid out on geometric and symbolic principles. As one of the most powerful cultural centers in Mesoamerica, Teotihuacán extended its cultural and artistic influence throughout the region, and even beyond. It is considered a model of urbanization and large-scale planning, which greatly influenced the conceptions of contemporary and subsequent cultures. Although human occupation of the valley of Teotihuacán began before the Christian era, it was only between the 1st and the 7th centuries A.D. that the Teotihuacanos settled in concentrated numbers on the present site and gradually built up a holy city of impressive dimensions (At the peak of its development the city stretched out over 36 km2.). The city was razed by fire and subsequently abandoned during the 7th century. Six centuries later, Teotihuacán’s overgrown ruins impressed the Aztecs so greatly they used the pyramids for worship, to consult oracles and perform sacrifices. They variously described it as being built by the Toltecs, giants or gods, and mistook the residential palaces along the Avenue of the Dead for tombs. It was also the Aztecs that gave the city the name we know it by: the Place of the Gods.
p.s. The city’s history is basically divided into six phases; Patlachique, Tzacualli, Miccaotli, Tlamimilolpa, Xolalpan, and Metepec.
Exploring the Teotihuacán Archeological Site:
Teotihuacán is one the archaeological sites with the longest history of exploration in Mexico. The first surveys date from 1864, and the first excavations from 1884. The city’s urban plan integrated natural elements of the Teotihuacán Valley, such as the San Juan River, whose course was altered to cross the Avenue of the Dead. This north-south oriented main reference axis of the city is lined with monumental buildings and complexes.
Except for the Ciudadela and the Edificios Superpuestos, the major monumental constructions in the city were concentrated in its northern section along the Avenue of the Dead, which the canalized San Juan River perpendicularly crossed at right angles as seen in this map. (http://archaeology.la.asu.edu/teo/)
p.s. One characteristic of the city’s civil and religious architecture is the “talud-tablero", which became a distinctive feature of this culture.
(Via Wikipedia) Talud-tablero facades depict a rectangular element (tablero-flat portion) set upon a trapezoid (talud-angled/sloping side), a combination that may be repeated in multiple stages. It may also be referred to as the “slope-and-panel" style.
The Citadel/La Ciudadela 碉堡 When the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon were completed, the locus of construction at Teotihuacán shifted to the southern end of the Avenue of the Dead, where a complex called the Ciudadela—a sunken plaza large enough to hold most of the city’s inhabitants. It measures about 400 m on a side (i.e. about 160,000 m2), and the interior space is surrounded by fifteen smaller stepped pyramids. One of the main functions of this closed huge space may have been ritual performance.
The Feathered Serpent Pyramid—was the central pyramid at the Ciudadela, one of the largest enclosed precincts in Mesoamerica. It was constructed around 200 A.D., the last major monument to be built in the city. The Feathered Serpent Pyramid was the third largest pyramid in Teotihuacán. Although significantly smaller in size than both the Pyramid of the Sun and Moon, it was one of the most elaborate monuments in the city. It is also the only structure at Teotihuacán whose stone carvings are still intact. The pyramid takes its name from representations of the Mesoamerican “feathered serpent" deity which covered its sides—these are some of the earliest-known representations of the feathered serpent, often identified with the much-later Aztec god Quetzalcoatl.
p.s. The earliest representations of feathered serpents appear in the Olmec culture (1400-400 B.C.). However, the first culture to use the symbol of a feathered serpent as an important religious and political symbol was Teotihuacán.
Today the pyramid is largely hidden by the Adosada platform hinting at political reconstruction of Teotihuacán during the 4th century. Following excavations in the early 20th century (between 1917 and 1920), a section of a façade on the pyramid’s west side was discovered. This section is believed to date from the late 3rd century. Currently, two structures stand as independent platforms, one from the other. As the size was smaller than the Feathered Serpent Pyramid itself, the Adosada platform did not completely covered the facade, but left significantly large area of the front side including the upper part of the stairway that led to the top of the pyramid complex. The Adosada platform was apparently constructed as an enlargement process of the same monument, and the pyramid had presumably been functioning with its temple atop after the Adosada platform was constructed.
p.s. Another characteristic feature of the Feathered Serpent Pyramid was the sacrificial grave complex integrated into its construction plan. Containing mass-dedicatory and elite burials (more than 200 individuals have been found in 25 graves); it represents the most elaborate burial program found to date in Teotihuacán.
The Feathered Serpent Pyramid, from the top of the Adosada platform. It is a seven-level step pyramid built in the talud-tablero style, one of the most characteristic features of Teotihuacán architectural style.
All four sides of the Feathered Serpent Pyramid had been covered by an elaborate facade of stone carvings which including a series of large sculptural heads. The facades that originally existed on the lateral and rear faces have been almost completely destroyed. Fortunately, the principal (western) facade of the pyramid was covered by the Adosada platform in ancient times, which was therefore uncovered in an excellent condition of preservation. Thanks to these conditions, we know that the Feathered Serpent Pyramid, measuring 65 m on a side (about 4225 m2 at the base, currently 19.4 m high.), depicted important mythic-religious entities – Feathered Serpents and a form of sacred headdress.
The balustrades limiting the staircase at both sides were adorned with curved representations of the Feathered Serpent heads. They are very similar to, though not exactly same as, the heads carvings incorporated into the facades.
The Avenue of the Dead/Calzada de los Muertos 死亡大道—is the main roadway in the City of Teotihuacán. It runs in a south-north direction and has an overall length of more that 2 miles (5 kilometers). Its northern limit is found at the Plaza of the Moon while the southernmost end (extending beyond the Ciudadela almost to the foot of the mountains) has not yet been explored. The width of the avenue varies significantly between different sections, ranging from 40 to 95 meters.
p.s. The Avenue of the Dead got its strange and forbidding name from the Aztec, who mistook these smaller platforms that line both sides of the avenue for tombs of kings or priests. Now archaeologists believe these structures were used as ceremonial platforms that were topped with temples—這條大道應該更適合稱為「祭典大道」。
Along the Avenue of the Dead were several structures that were part of the layout of the city, all the buildings along it, and in general all the sets, they were polychrome, which should have given a very special aspect to the city. To the North of the Citadel, between this and the pyramid of the Sun, several interesting sets are located (all together called “the Avenue of the Dead Complex"): on the west side the Superimposed Buildings, more to the north and the east side the Viking Group and at the forefront of these the West Plaza Complex. In front of the pyramid of the Sun is the Patio of the Four Small Temples; then further towards the north the Mural of the Puma, one of the examples representative of the painting Teotihuacán.
At the avenue’s halfway point you’ll see the West Plaza Complex (Conjunto Plaza Oeste) and a residential area, which probably was inhabited by priests in the pre-Hispanic era. This is the largest housing complex and most complete so far explored. In evidence here, as in the rest of the city, are the various levels of construction corresponding to different periods of the Teotihuacán culture.
Here is the group you find a large central plaza ringed by three pyramidal bases which look down on an altar in the middle. In the remaining part of the complex are found platforms, shrines and varying sized rooms, arranged around plazas and courtyards, corridors and hallways as well as communication between each group.
In the course of their excavations, archaeologists uncovered a construction period previous to the one seen today above ground. The stairs are flanked by balustrades which end below in two huge split-tongued snake heads, each sculpted from gray quarry stone and covered with stucco painted pink to emphasize their features. This level of construction coincides chronologically and shares important architectural symbolism with the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (150-250 A.D.).
The stairway was later used in the rebuilding of a new stage at a higher level by means of fills over which floors were laid. At the new stage you see that the decorative heads at the bottom of the stairway balustrades were changed to represent the heads of wild cats.
The Patio of the Four Small Temples (Patio de los Cuatro Templitos)
Further on, on the right-hand side, we see a long primitive wall said to have been built by the Chichimecs. Behind it, underneath a protective roof, there are interesting wall paintings depicting a puma of about 2 m in length. This mural was discovered during archaeological explorations in 1963. It is part of a group of platforms and temples that comprise an architectural unit known as the Puma Complex. This representation acquaints one with the type of decoration on the slop-panel façade of the buildings located on both sides of the Avenue of the Dead.
The Pyramid of the Sun/Pirámide de Sol 太陽金字塔(the second largest in Mexico)—was constructed in two phases (between 1 and 250 A.D.): As originally built, the Pyramid of the Sun was approximately 215 by 215 m at the base, and about 63 m high. It was significantly enlarged at least twice in later periods, resulting in a final size of 225 m along each side.
The pyramid was discovered by Leopoldo Batres and located on the east side of the Avenue of the Dead in the northern half of the city. If the area of monumental construction between the Pyramid of the Moon and the San Juan Canal is regarded as the central zone of the city, the Pyramid of the Sun is located at its middle. In addition to its geographic centrality, the importance of the pyramid is indicated by a cave located under the structure. It is believed by certain scholars that the cave was used for ritual activities, and why the pyramid was constructed where it is today.
There are 248 steps up to the top and the altitude at this location makes it seem even higher! The view is extraordinary and the sensation exhilarating.
The Plaza of the Moon/Plaza de la Luna
The spatial arrangement of the structures which form the Plaza of the Moon complex illustrate that the city was laid out according to a master plan based on symmetry and that it was intentionally integrated into the local geography. This is most notable as one walks along the center line of the Avenue of the Dead and looks towards the upper part of Cerro Gordo, the mountain that dominates the landscape to the north of the Pyramid of the Moon. The apex of the pyramid coincides exactly with the notch on the upper part of the mountain, which lines up exactly with the Avenue. Because of this it seems that the pan-Mesoamerican belief that pyramids represent sacred mountains may have been an important factor in the planning of the ancient city. The Plaza of the Moon has a square layout, each side measuring 466 feet. It is formed by 15 pyramidal structures, like the central plaza of the Ciudadela, was probably one of the most sacred ceremonial areas in the metropolis.
This is the Goddess Chalchiuticue, Tlaloc’s (God of storms and lighting) companion. Because she is located next to the plaza’s central altar, it is possible that rituals and ceremonies associated to water and life were conducted here as offerings to this Goddess.
Located right in the middle of the plaza, with stairs facing the four directions, the central altar was probably used to receive the priests and leaders that conducted ceremonies and public events for large groups of people. Its decorations included fine finishes made of lime and pigments, harmoniously incorporating it to the architectural design of the plaza.
The Pyramid of the Moon/Pirámide de la Luna 月亮金字塔—is located at the extreme northern end of the Avenue of the Dead, the principal axis of the city of Teotihuacán. The pyramid, facing towards the south, was constructed as the principal monument of the Plaza of the Moon.
Recent research suggests the Pyramid of the Moon was built in six stages between around 1 and 350 A.D. It started off as a small platform and eventually became a 43 m high pyramid with a rectangular base with an east-west length of 152 m and north-south width of 132 m.
The Palace of Quetzal Butterfly/Palacio de Quetzalpapalotl 蝴蝶宮殿—特奧蒂瓦坎城最豪華的建築 The Palace of Quetzal Butterfly is located a short distance to the south-west of the Plaza of the Moon. This is thought to be the place where the high priest lived.
p.s. The building turned out to have a very long history of construction, destruction, reconstruction, and so forth. Thus today the visitor finds the remains of not one but three associated structures: the Palacio de Quetzalpapalotl, the buried earlier structure known as the Subestructura de los Caracoles Enplumados , and the adjacent Palacio de los Jaguares.
The Substructure of the Feathered Conch Shells/Subestructura de los Caracoles Emplumados 羽毛海螺神廟—特奧蒂瓦坎城最古老的建築
It lies hidden away beneath the Palace of the Quetzal Butterfly. The largest of the remaining facades, which once belonged to a temple, is decorated with superb reliefs.
The Palace of the Jaguars/Palacio de los Jaguares 美洲豹宮殿
Adjoin the Palace of Quetzal Butterfly is the Palace of the Jaguars. It has many remarkable early wall-paintings, which include depictions of predatory cats with human heads and jaguars blowing into shells. Archaeologists believe the scenes depict rituals to bring rain.