Sunday, June 16, 2013

Mexico: Teotihuacán

Pyramid of the Sun from the west side
In the previous post Teotihuacan was usurped by the more interesting religious icon of the Virgin of Guadalupe, but that's not to say that Teotihuacan isn't also fascinating.

It was started in approximately 100 years before Christ and according to our guide, the Pyramid of the Sun was completed in only 80 years. There was no written language to provide historical stories or dates like in most of the Mayan sites. For a long time it was attributed to the Toltecs,  but apparently that has now been tossed out. If you want to read more about it, there is a lot of good information at Teotihuacán

We explored the temple dedicated to Quetzalcoatl, a god who figured prominently in the Spanish Conquest. Since Teotihuacán means (in Nahuatl) the birthplace of the Gods, the Aztecs believed a story that Quetzalcoatl, a plumed and bearded serpent god, had gone off to the east and would return one day. Imagine their surprise (fear and trepidation) to be visited by an actual GOD when the Spaniards showed up with beards, in a boat with  wings, riding strange beasts, and coming from the east, the direction of Quetzalcoatl. It gave the Spaniards an edge they didn't even know they had.

Then we climbed the Pyramid of the Sun; not the tallest, or the biggest in Mexico, but certainly the most famous. It sits in an enormous plaza surrounded by smaller buildings and pyramids, as part of a large religious and commercial complex. It faces south and has an exact angle so that during the summer solstice, at noon, there are no shadows.

A portion of the city where people lived.
Then we walked the Avenue of the dead, where we saw the very few preserved murals. At one time every square inch of the complex was covered in deep red plaster, including the ground. Pieces of that thick plaster are visible everywhere, and in places, even the red color (and other colors) remain. It's been abandoned since the 8th century, and was eventually covered up with dirt and vegetation, though it never was lost to the jungle like most Mayan cities.

Patty climbed up the shorter staircase of the Pyramid of the Moon, at the far end of the Avenue of the Dead. But my knees were too shot to do it
. At that end, many buildings have been reconstructed, including an "office complex" where the business of the city was administrated. Most of the pyramids once had a structure on top that housed a god. Since those were usually wooden with a wood or palapa roof, they've long since disappeared.

What you rarely see in photos, due to the lack of drama, are the thousands of individual family homes. The city once had a population of 175,000 people. In the museum are models showing the extent of the city. Now, of course, other towns have been built on top. Like in Rome, just a few feet down, from the floor of any home, there is evidence of the previous occupants.

So here are a few photos of Teotihuacán, some you'll recognize, and some will be a surprise.

Evidence of colored plaster still in place

Interesting styling of the structures

Emerging serpent head on the pyramid to Quetzalcoatl

Plumed Serpent (Quetalcuatl) as it probably
looked in its day

Jaguar head

Another more stylized Jaguar

Pyramid of the Sun and further away, Pyramid of the Moon

Photo of me on top with the Pyramid
of the Moon in the distance

Pyramid of the Moon and the Avenue of the Dead

Avenue of the Dead

Rare surviving mural of a jaguar