Pyramid of the Sun and The Pyramid of the Moon


The Pyramid of the Sun, built in the 2nd century AD, dominates the landscape of the ancient city of Teotihuacan in Mexico. Teotihuacan -the place of the Gods - was the first true city in Mesoamerica, at its peak - 600 AD - it housed more than 100,000 people.

It is the third largest pyramid in the world. It stands over 230 ft. (70 m) high, and was built without metal tools, pack animals, or even the wheel!

At its peak, most of the city was plastered, and the pyramids were painted bright red.

The priests who served this temple had a panoramic view of a remarkable urban complex. In the morning, they could look westward, down to the long plaza in front of their pyramid and to the Street of the Dead, an avenue that seemed to stretch for miles into the far distance north and south. Its north end opened onto a large plaza in front of another huge pyramid. In the rising sunlight, this vast structure cast long shadows be low. The priests could see the small temple at its summit, but the figures of their colleagues there were dwarfed by the scale of the pyramid under them.

Southward, the 'Street of the Dead' led through another plaza and, as the sun rose higher, the priests could gaze even further in this direction. Their eyes would light on the Temple of the Plumed Serpent Quetzalcoatl. The elaborate serpent carvings on its facade were barely discernible in the dark shadows. But the gigantic, open square in front of the temple already teemed with bustling life. From their lofty porch, the priests could dimly hear the noise of the busy city below.

The Street of the Dead was lined with fine civic and religious buildings. Beyond these, the priests could survey a mass of densely packed houses and apartment complexes interspersed with courtyards and separated by winding streets. A lingering pall of smoke from innumerable domestic hearths generally hung in the morning air.

Outside the ceremonial precincts, numerous paths led into the surrounding countryside. Small villages of thatched huts dotted the distant landscape. From the heady elevation of the pyramid, Teotihuacan was truly a wonderful sight.

Any traveler to Teotihuacan first made a beeline for the market. There were several markets in the city, but the largest flourished in a huge open compound off the Street of the Dead, opposite the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. The markets supplied the needs of the entire city, a teeming urban population estimated to have once been as high as 100,000 people.

While the priests and craftsworkers lived in dwellings built around small courtyards, the less privileged dwelt in large compounds of rooms connected by narrow alleyways and patios. Most of these people were urban dwellers who bought their staple diet of maize, squashes, and beans in the market.

There were few farmers within the confines of Teotihuacan itself, but we know that many rural villages flourished nearby. Most of them were compact and expertly planned settlements whose agricultural activities were carefully supervised by city rulers.

These were the villages that produced the enormous surplus of agricultural produce necessary for Teotihuacan's survival. Although we have no definite proof, we can be certain that the villagers used irrigation agriculture, harnessing swamps, lakes, and rivers to fertilize the large acreages of land that were brought under cultivation to feed the nearby urban population.

Most of the products of the harvest were sold in the large market off the Street of the Dead.

This market was the center of Teotihuacan's daily life, the place to meet with friends and hear the gossip of the city. Only the market area would provide a visitor with a true measure of Teotihuacan's incredible rang of activities. The market itself was organized into sections. In one part, hundreds of stalls displayed ripe maize and every type of food stuff, from fish and game to the most delicate of vegetable relishes.

Teotihuacan lay at a hub of the far-flung obsidian volcanic glass trade of Middle America. A visitor could pause to handle hundreds of delicate blades and fine knives displayed in the obsidian traders' part of the market. Then there were the potters, whose booths were thronged with strangers buying fine bowls and painted pots in large numbers. Teotihuacan's potters were famous far beyond the confines of their city. Their wares have been found in the lowlands and as far west as the Pacific coast. Feather headdresses, cloaks, live birds, and jewels of every form could also be purchased in Teotihuacan's bustling daily market. The variety of goods must have been truly bewildering to the stranger.

If the market was bewildering, the city itself must have seemed enormous. Today's tourist is exhausted after traversing the Street of the Dead, climbing several pyramids, and wandering through the huge plazas and temples nearby. So great is the city that public buildings at one end are barely discernible from the other.

Many of the buildings are identical, laid out in monotonous array. Every religious structure bore a terraced facade embellished with similar painted and sculptured motifs, usually elaborate renderings of feathered serpents and other gods. The artists and architects were not being unimaginative, they were simply responding to a rigid religious symbolism. As a result, Teotihuacan seems dull, until one realizes that the buildings were once ablaze with fresh paint, a vivid counterpoint to the repetitive religious symbolism.

Teotihuacan was a highly organized city rigidly governed by religious and secular leaders who had complete control over the minds, spirits, and bodies of their subjects.

The priests, an intellectual elite, were skillful astronomers who kept track of the ever-changing cycles of public life, of the seasons for religious ceremonies, and of the endless procession of days, months, and years. But the tentacles of religion extended into every household; domestic altars were commonplace even in humble dwellings.

Teotihuacan's art was intensely religious, depicting the feathered serpent deity Quetzalcoatl and other gods. However, some wall murals do depict trade and traders; distant foreigners like the Maya from the lowlands are portrayed with slanting eyes and distinctive dress styles.

As Teotihuacan reached the height of its powers and warlike leaders began to assume major roles in public life, warriors and priests also began to appear in the murals.

By AD 500, Teotihuacan had established a unique position for itself in the Valley of Mexico and possessed a prestige and power unprecedented in Middle American history.

But just as its art and architecture were reaching their full climax and trading activities were at a peak, the political, economic, and religious fabric of the city began to unravel.

The first strains appeared about AD 650. A century later, Teotihuacan was a shadow of its former self. The population had declined so rapidly that the once-proud city was now little more than a series of hamlets extending over an area of about a square kilometer.

Some great catastrophe apparently struck the city in AD 700, reducing its population to below 70,000. Many of its people moved eastward. The city was deliberately burnt and destroyed. Over the years, its buildings collapsed and the pyramids became overgrown with dense vegetation.

Teotihuacan's decline was almost as rapid as its rise to prominence. Even so, eight centuries later, Teotihuacan was still revered far and wide as an intensely sacred place. But no one remembered who had built it or that tens of thousands of people had once lived there.

Excerpt from Quest For The Past -1977 - by Brian Fagan

Orthodox archaeologists have been excavating the ruins for over 100 years. Though the culture that built the city has been lost to history, many scholars outside the established academic circles, have produced extensive evidence that the precise arrangement, proportion and alignment of it's many monuments expresses, at the very least, advanced and detailed astronomical knowledge well beyond that with which they have been credited.

Comparing the Pyramid of the Sun with the Great Pyramid in Egypt Math page.

According to Graham Hancock and others, the two pyramids are almost or very nearly equal to one another in base perimeter. Along with this thought there is also the statement that the Pyramid of the Sun is "almost" half the height of the Great Pyramid. There is a slight difference. The Great Pyramid is 1.03... times larger than the base of the Pyramid of the Sun. Conversely, the base of the Pyramid of the Sun is 97% of the Great Pyramid's base.

Mexico is mostly mountainous. The volcano Orizaba, located near Puebla in a chain of mountains called the Transverse Volcanic Sierra, is Mexico's highest mountain, with an elevation of 5,747 m (18,855 ft). This Sierra extends east-west across Mexico to the north of Mexico City, the country's capital, and includes the spectacular volcanoes Popcatepetl, Ixtacihuatl and Paricutin.


Discoveries At Teotihuacan's Pyramid Unlock Ancient Mysteries

September 22, 1999 - Arizona State University

An unexpected set of new discoveries in the ongoing excavation beneath the Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan may provide critical clues in reconstructing a 2,000-year old history still mysteriously missing from the ruins of the ancient master-planned metropolis, located 25 miles from current Mexico City.

Announced today, the latest discovery at the site is a tomb apparently made to dedicate the fifth phase of construction of the pyramid, containing four human skeletons, animal bones, large conch shells, jewelry, obsidian blades and a wide variety of other offerings. Excavation is expected to continue for another two weeks.

Found by a team of archaeologists led by Saburo Sugiyama, associate professor at Aichi Prefectural University in Japan and adjunct faculty at Arizona State University, and Ruben Cabrera of Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History, the burial contains important evidence that may help archaeologists define and examine a particularly active period in Teotihuacan's history and perhaps one of the culture's "defining moments."

The tomb and its offerings appear to differ in important ways from another dedicatory tomb found at the site a year ago. That tomb, clearly associated with the pyramid's fourth stage of development, contained only one human male -- a bound, sacrificial victim -- as well as wolf , jaguar, puma, serpent and bird skeletons, and more than 400 other offerings, including large greenstone and obsidian figurines, ceremonial knives, and spearpoints.

"The contents of this new burial appear to be significantly different from the tomb we found last year," said Sugiyama. "But there are many aspects to this burial that seem similar to those we found a decade ago in the tombs under the Feathered Serpent Pyramid."

Sugiyama notes the presence of many green obsidian blades in the new burial -- a color of obsidian lacking in the tomb in pyramid four, but common in the Feathered Serpent burials -- and the presence of a greenstone "butterfly" nose pendent that is "exactly the same style as the ones we found at the Feathered Serpent Pyramid."

There also are more military items among the offerings, and a larger number of human sacrifices, both of which are reminiscent of the Feathered Serpent burials, where they found more than 130 human skeletons, most of them clearly soldiers and possibly war captives.

"As a result of the final discoveries, we find explicit signs of militarism in the culture since its early periods," said Sugiyama.

Beyond the offerings, there are other indications as well of a cultural shift occurring between the two burials.

The current find appears to be connected to the phase in the pyramid's development that followed the building of pyramid four-- a distinct stage in the structure's history that has not been recognized until now. The inhabitants of Teotihuacan built successively larger pyramids on top of the previous monuments, often partially deconstructing the previous pyramid in the process. From past research, there were thought to have been five phases to the Pyramid of the Moon, with phase one (dated in the 1st Century A.D.) being Teotihuacan's oldest major monument. Excavations show a major jump in size and complexity occurring with the construction of pyramid four and a change in orientation that puts it in line with the unique and precise city grid structure that we see today in the city's eight square miles of ruins.

Sugiyama and Cabrera have found evidence indicating that a significant remodeling of pyramid four -- a fifth period of construction -- occurred before the pyramid received its final addition. This new fifth stage, which contains the recently discovered tomb, appears to be a significant modification of the fourth structure's architecture, position and size. Part of the remodeling involved the first use on the Pyramid of the Moon of the "talud-tablero" architectural style that dominates the structures we see today, including the Feathered Serpent Pyramid and the Pyramid of the Sun, in its "Adosada" portion.

Evidence in the differences in the ceremonial offerings between pyramid four and its remodeled version, pyramid five, thus suggest an important shift in the culture that may also be reflected in the construction of the Feathered Serpent Pyramid and the Pyramid of the Sun. Both of these pyramids were constructed largely at one time and are newer than the earlier phases of the Pyramid of the Moon.

"There's not enough data yet to draw any large conclusions, but one thing that's fascinating is that the mythic images that we see in the war-like murals from late periods of Teotihuacan -- jaguars, coyotes and eagles with shells and head dresses -- are made up of elements that we see literally present in these much older burials," said Sugiyama. "What was going on here seems to have had a lasting effect."

Though archaeologists have long been fascinated with the site, Teotihuacan's culture and history are still largely mysterious. The civilization left massive ruins, but no trace has yet been found of a writing system and very little is known for sure about its inhabitants, who were succeeded first by the Toltecs and then by the Aztecs. The Aztecs did not live in the city, but gave the place and its major structures their current names. They considered it the "Place of the Gods" -- a place where, they believed, the current world was created.

At its peak around 500 A.D., Teotihuacan contained perhaps 200,000 people, a master-planned city covering nearly eight square miles and larger and more advanced than anyEuropean city of the time. Its civilization was contemporary with that of ancient Rome , and lasted longer - more than 500 years.

The current excavation under the Pyramid of the Moon may be one of the best opportunities to answer questions about the civilization, as its underlying older, primitive loose rock construction may have protected buried secrets by making it difficult to dig under and resistant to looters. Sugiyama hopes to find still more tombs. "We have noticed that this tomb is a few feet to the east of the city's north-south axis line," said Sugiyama. "These people were generally very precise and they rarely did anything unsymetrically. With this in mind, we can suspect to find other burials based on our precise maps."

The excavation is a joint project of the ASU Department of Anthropology and Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History and is funded in part by grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society. Study and analysis of the burial items and other materials found in the excavation will be conducted at the ASU Archaeology Center in nearby San Juan Teotihuacan. The center, which has quarters and laboratory space for ten archaeologists, was founded with the help of an NSF grant in 1987 to do research on Teotihuacan.

Mexico's Pyramid of The Moon yields some of its mysteries

Teotihuancan, Mexico -October 21, 1998-AP

Archaeologists digging inside the Pyramid of the Moon in ancient Mexico's biggest ceremonial center have uncovered what could be remnants from a civilization even older than the mysterious Teotihuacanos.

The archaeological team said Tuesday that the pyramid was built on top of the remains of at least three buildings, one of which contained a human skeleton surrounded by funeral offerings and other artifacts. The bones were in good condition, buried in a sitting position The tomb was discovered by accident 11 days ago.

Teotihuacan, in the valley of the same name 30 miles north of Mexico City, used to be a thriving city and ceremonial center that predated the Aztecs by several centuries. But very little is known about it. Investigators have studied the pyramids and buildings close by, artifacts and a few pictographs, but no hieroglyphs or other writings of any kind. No one knows what their language was. Teotihuacan began declining sharply around 650 AD, and was almost completely abandoned around 750 AD. No one knows why.

The skeleton is still half-buried, and its gender and age have not been determined. A rough guess would place the skeleton between 100 and 150 AD. Around 150 artifacts have been found in the tomb, including figurines, ceramics, statuettes, jade carvings and obsidian pieces. It appear to have belonged to somebody important, because of the amount and quality of funeral offerings surrounding it.

Although mummies and other human remains have been uncovered in pyramids in Egypt and elsewhere, human remains deep inside a Mexican pyramid have been almost unheard of. The step-pyramids were built mainly to give height to stone temples to make sacrifice and worship the gods.

The research group includes Sugiyama from the University of Tokyo, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Arizona State, the University of the Americas in Mexico and the National Institute of History and Anthropology. The group is also financing the project with the U.S. National Science Foundation, project coordinator Ruben Cabrera Castro said.