“The city where people become gods” – this is what the Aztecs called the most influential culture in Mesoamerica, centuries after its demise. Between 100,000 and 200,000 people are supposed to have lived around 600 A.D. in the large-scale urban centre of power.
Above all, Teotihuacán was an important marketplace with extensive trade relations. The control over the obsidian mines of Otumba and Pachuca allowed Teotihuacán to concentrate the production of sophisticated tools and other items from the coveted material in the city in order to export them. Another important commodity was the pottery produced in Teotihuacán, mostly cylindrical, trifoot vessels in orange ochre.
Teotihuacán was an important spiritual centre with impressive ceremonial buildings and also attracted members of other cultures and city states. This constant population fluctuation was an enrichment to the urban life.
Why the flourishing city suddenly collapsed around 700 A.D. is not completely clarified. Both massive attacks by nomadic peoples from the north and internal conflicts are considered the main causes of the collapse. Traces of fire and the systematic destruction of building complexes along the Avenida de los Muertos exclude a gradual decline in any case. As late as the 16th century, the Spaniards still raved about the splendour of this city.
Looting and reckless excavation work at the beginning of the 20th century contributed to their further destruction. Present-day visitors are particularly impressed by the monumentality of the buildings.
The famous Pyramid of the Sun on the Avenue of the Dead, which cuts through the city map from north to south as a mighty axis, is one of the most massive buildings erected on the American continent in pre-Hispanic times. (50-200n.Chr.) Only a few buildings, such as the “Temple of the Quetzalcoatl” or the Palace of the Quetzal Butterfly (Palacio de Quetzalpapalotl) have decorative details that give an idea of the former beauty of the city.
Since Teotihuacán – unlike e.g. the Maya – had not developed a writing, many questions about his religious and cosmological ideas are still unanswered today. New finds can usually narrow only minor gaps in scientific knowledge, but often they also raise new questions. Archaeologists of the Japanese Aichi University found a grave with three male bodies in squatting position.
At the end of 2011, remains of ceramic and obsidian offerings from the construction period of the monument (approx. 100 AD) were also found in the centre of the Pyramid of the Sun. The researchers also discovered figures of jade and animal bones and seven graves – some of them from children. In 2010, a tunnel located by ground radar near the Feathered Serpent Temple in 2003 was explored by a robot for the first time. This tunnel was closed for 1800 years, and the hope is that at the end of the tunnel the tombs of the ancient rulers of Teotihuacán will be discovered.
For a better understanding and appreciation of the stay in Teotihuacán, you should first visit the Teotihuacán exhibition at the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City in order to have a better understand of what you see.