History of the Pyramids
In Mexico City, during excavation work in 1978 near the Cathedral, a heavy slab was unearthed. However, the slab complete with intricate artwork was smashed when discovered. Researchers began to question the action and identity of the individual responsible. To find these answers, we
have to go back in time. In the year 1510, Mexico City as we know it today did not exist. In its place, was an extraordinary and incredible city, Tenochtitlan. This was the capital and heart of the grandiose Aztec Empire.
The monarch, who had the power of life and death over his subjects was known as Montezuma II. Like his ancestors, Montezuma was a highly religious sovereign, particularly devoted to God, Quetzalcoatl — the ‘Feathered Serpent’. Quetzalcoatl was an extremely benevolent God
and the only God in the Aztec pantheon opposed to human sacrifices. The sacred texts state that God had left the land, promising that he would return to redeem his people. According to the Aztec calendar, the year 1519 ( according to our current calendar), ended one of the sacred
cycles. This meant that Quetzalcoatl would soon return. However, in 1519, it was not a God that arrived, but conquistadors. They went on to destroy the Aztec capital and exterminate its population. The invaders wielded devastation weapons, completely unknown to the indigenous populations — canons, rifles, pistols, and horses.
After the Spaniards conquered Aztec territory, they started building structures of their own. The cathedral of Mexico City is a prime example of Spanish architecture. Instead of quarrying for new stones, they used materials from Aztec temples dedicated to different deities. In spite of great
efforts to consolidate its foundations, the cathedral is now unavoidably sinking into the swampy ground — an iconic end to a monument erected by the conquistadors to erase all traces of the glorious Tenochtitlan.
Until the year 1978, it appears as though the leaders had succeeded in their malicious intent. However, what followed was completely unexpected. During excavation work, workers digging a trench near the Cathedral stumbled upon pieced of a gigantic and mysterious oval stone. The
stone was immediately identified as an Aztec relic and inaugurated a new era for modern Mexican archeology. The earth would soon yield the ancient vestiges of Tenochtitlan. From the many relics that have now been discovered, scientists are able to imagine, how the magnificent
ancient capital might have looked. The center of Tenochtitlan was mainly a place of worship full of temples, erected on the tops of pyramids with their characteristic steep stairways and colorful wall paintings.
On your visit to the site, remember that the actual city extended over 12 square miles (20 km) and was heavily populated. The Citadel is a vast, open space surrounded by temples. We can infer that it was probably used for ceremonies. For the Aztecs, religious rites and sacrifices were
a necessity, the only way to earn the benevolence of the Gods. They believed they were warding off famine, natural disasters, defeats and battle. Located across the square and distanced by a steps, you can find the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. The temple is decorated with snails, shells and symbols of water.
Avenue of the Dead
‘Calzada de los Muertos’ or the Avenue of the Dead is the main roadway in the city of Teotihuacan It runs in a south-north direction, though off centre from astronomical north by 15.25 degrees to the east. Its northern limit is found at the Plaza of the Moon, while its southernmost
end has not yet been explored. It has an overall length of two miles. The groups of buildings that line both sides of the Avenue if the Dead belong to the place and temple complexes designed specifically for the Teotihuacan state’s different political-administrative and civic-religious activities.
Pyramid of the Sun
This particular pyramid is one of the country’s largest architectures. Tourists are in awe of the grandiosity of the pyramid, it measure as — 200 feet high and 700 feet wide. Unlike the pyramids of Egypt, the pyramids in Mexico were not built to meet at a point on top. Alternately, they appear to be flat on top and were often functioned as bases for temples. Interestingly, the Pyramid of the
Sun was constructed on a top of cave. This cave was discovered in 1970 and is in the shape of four-leafed clover. It is a 100 yards long and has four chambers. In ancient Mexico, caves were symbolic of passageways to the underworld. A second interpretation conjures the image of caves as the womb of the earth.
Teotihuacan is busiest on the days of the fall and spring equinox. Typically, visitors dressed in white climb atop the Pyramid of the Sun. They stand with arms outstretched hoping to receive the spiritual energy that emanates from the site. If you don’t mind climbing a few steps
(approximately 250), the views from the top are surreal and undoubtedly worth the effort. If you want to avoid that sudden surge of vertigo, remember not to look down on your way back down!
Pyramid of the Moon
The Pyramid of the Moon is the second largest pyramid in Mexico after the Pyramid of the Sun and is believed to have existed prior to 200 AD. If you’re feeling energetic enough, you can climb further and make your way to this architectural beauty. It offers guests a spectacular site of the
Avenue of the Dead and the archaeological site in its entirety from its northernmost point.
Fun Fact: Recently, archaeologists have discovered a secret tunnel and a cavity hidden below the Pyramid of the Moon. Experts believe that these tunnels were once dedicated to the ‘underworld’ Toltec rituals.
Admission and Hours Opening hours for the Teotihuacan archeological site are between 9 am to 5 pm. As for ticket prices, it is 70 pesos/person for general admission and free for children under 13. Furthermore, if you are a Mexican citizen or resident who is accompanying a friend, tickets
are free for you on Sundays. There are a variety of travel companies that offer tours and day trips to Teotihuacan from Mexico City. These tours also stop for lunch and at shopping centers for you to pick up your souvenirs!