Today I was really looking forward to walking down the Avenue of the Dead and climbing the Pyramids of Teotihuacán. OK, maybe not so much the climbing part!
I woke up early to get to the park before the tourist buses from Mexico City arrived. That was one of the main reasons for picking a hotel within walking distance to Teotihuacán. The other was so that I didn’t have to leave my motorcycle unattended in the parking lot there with all my belongings.
Teotihuacán is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The following is a description of Teotihuacán from the UNESCO website.
Teotihuacan and its valley bear unique testimony to the pre-urban structures of ancient Mexico. Human occupation of the valley of Teotihuacan began before the Christian era, but it was only between the 1st and the 7th centuries A.D. that the settlement developed into one of the largest ancient cities in the Americas, with at least 25,000 inhabitants.
The city’s urban plan integrated natural elements of the Teotihuacan 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, from which the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, as well as the Great Compound with the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (also known as Temple of the Plumed Serpent) stand out. One characteristic of the city’s civil and religious architecture is the “talud-tablero”, which became a distinctive feature of this culture. Furthermore, a considerable number of buildings were decorated with wall paintings where elements of worldview and the environment of that time were materialized. The city is considered a model of urbanization and large-scale planning, which greatly influenced the conceptions of contemporary and subsequent cultures.
At the peak of its development the city stretched out over 36 km2. Outside the ceremonial centre, which, despite its imposing size, represents only 10% of the total surface, excavations have revealed palaces and residential quarters that are of great interest at, for example, La Ventilla, Tetitla, Zacuala, and Yayahuala to the west, and Xala and Tepantitla to the east. The city was razed by fire and subsequently abandoned during the 7th century.
The ceremonial ensemble of Teotihuacan represents a unique artistic achievement as much by the enormous size of the monuments (the Pyramid of the Sun, built on a 350 m² terrace, measures 225 x 222 meters at the base, and is 75 meters high, for a total volume of 1 million m³) as by the strictness of a layout based on cosmic harmony. The art of Teotihuacans was the most developed among the classic civilizations of Mexico. Here it is expressed in its successive and complementary aspects: the dry and obsessive geometry of the pyramids of the Sun and the Moon contrasts with the sculpted and the painted decor of an exceptional richness of the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent.
The influence of the first of the great civilizations of Mesoamerican classic civilizations was exerted over the whole of the central region of Mexico, in Yucatán, and as far away as Guatemala (the site of Kaminaljuyu) during the period of Teotihuacan III.
Much larger than the narrow zone of the ceremonial center, the archaeological site of Teotihuacan corresponds to a city of at least 25,000 inhabitants. Teotihuacan and its valley bear unique testimony on the pre-urban structures of ancient Mexico.
Lining the immense Avenue of the Dead, the unique group of sacred monuments and places of worship in Teotihuacan (the Pyramids of the Sun, the Moon and Quetzalcoatl and the Palaces of Quetzalmariposa, the Jaguars, of Yayahuala and others) constitutes an outstanding example of a pre-Columbian ceremonial center.
Following the destruction and abandonment of the city towards 650 A.D., the ruins were imbued with legend. The Aztec name of Teotihuacán means “the place where gods were created”. According to writings from the 16th century, the sacrifices practiced by Moctezuma every twenty days on the site attested to the persistence of beliefs, which made Teotihuacan a sacred place of exceptional value.
The Pre-Hispanic City of Teotihuacan fully preserves its monumentality, urban design and artistic wealth, as well as the relationship of the architectural structures with the natural environment, including its setting in the landscape. This is due to the maintenance, conservation and permanent protection the site has received. However, natural factors like rain, wind and solar radiation constantly affect the site and its elements, and are considered to be the most important threat. Not all conservation attempts in the past were successful and some elements of the site were negatively affected by the use of inadequate materials (e.g. concrete and polymers). This highlights the need for conservation guidelines for interventions, as requested by the World Heritage Committee in its 36th session (2012), as well as for plans for preventive conservation and monitoring at the site. A further serious threat is the development pressure around the site that is constantly on the rise.
Located 48 km northeast of Mexico City, Teotihuacan 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. Certain monuments were restored from 1905 to 1910, such as the Pyramid of the Sun, for which its discoverer Leopoldo Batres arbitrarily reconstituted a fifth tier. Since 1962, archaeological research has been coordinated by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), which, while encouraging spectacular discoveries (Palacio de Quetzalmariposa, the cave under the Pyramid of the Sun), has instigated a more rigorous policy concerning identification and supervision of excavations in the immediate environs of the ceremonial zone.
While some of the earlier reconstruction work, dating from the early years of the last century, is questionable in contemporary terms, it may be considered to have a historicity of its own now. In general terms, it can be said that the condition of authenticity of the expressions of the Outstanding Universal Values of Teotihuacan, which can be found in its urban layout, monuments and art, has been preserved until today.
Pyramid of the Sun
First on my agenda was to hike the Pyramid of the Sun while I was fresh and the top wasn’t crowded. The Pyramid of the Sun is the pyramid to the right in the pictures.
Surprisingly I made it to the top.
Pyramid of the Moon
The next stop was climbing the Pyramid of the Moon, which you can see in the pictures from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun. Luckily for my knees you can only climb half way up. From there though you get a great view of the Avenue if the Dead.
With the 2 big climbs behind me it was time for a break. The Mayahuel Restaurant is just past the Pyramid of the Sun outside of the park. Off I went for a break 🙂
Once again I could have stayed there all day. SOOOOO relaxing. But I had the rest of the park to explore.
Avenue of the Dead
For the rest of my time in Teotihuacán I walked down the Avenue of the Dead reading all the signs and taking in the magnitude of what was here.
As you can see, it is see an active archaeological site.
And archaeologists are finding layers from different time periods. One generation would just build over previous generations of buildings.
I did discover I had one more small baby pyramid to climb though.