I’m off to the U.S. tomorrow for about ten days before I hie to Old Blighty.
Two days ago I went to the ruins of Teotihuacan with a small group; it’s one of the most important set of ruins in Mesoamerica, and is just 50 km north of Mexico City. On the way we stopped at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a surreal experience, but more on that later.
As Wikipedia notes, the city lasted about 350 years, beginning about 100 B.C., and was huge (30 km square), holding over a hundred thousand residents. It’s a World Heritage site, and the most visited archaeological site in Mexico. It appears to have begun its decline in the 6th century A.D., possibly because of climate change that induced droughts. (Archaeologists are beginning to realize that the mysterious decline of many Mesoamerican cultures may have been based on climate change, i.e., changing ecology.) This should be a lesson for today’s world: we face climate change, too, and it could be disasterous; the difference is that this time it’s our fault.
Excavation of the ruins really begin around 1910, and I’m told they’re about 85% restored. Still, they’re quite impressive and there are some original murals with original paint (a rarity in Mesoamerican ruins). Here are two of them. The first is a sacred bird and a plant; water is apparently coming from the bird’s mouth:
Other murals inside an enclosed room:
This is a partial mural of a jaguar along the “Avenue of the Dead” that runs through the ruins. It’s part of a complex of temples and platforms called “The Puma Complex”. Kitteh!
The walls are attractive, with the mortar inset with small pebbles:
The stunning part of the ruins comprises two temples, those of the Moon and Sun, and a long “Avenue of the Dead” connecting them. The avenue is flanked by structures and platforms whose functions are unknown. I climbed both temples; here’s the smaller Temple of the Moon taken from the Avenue.
Here’s the Temple of the Sun (now thought to be a temple to the water god); it’s the third biggest pyramid in the world, after the Great Pyramid of Choululu in Puebla, Mexico, and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt:
I climbed to the top of this one, too (awesome view), and here’s the obligatory vanity picture:
Lest we forget what these civilizations were really like, let us remember that the builders of Teotihuacan, and their Aztec replacements, practiced the most barbarous forms of human sacrifice, for human blood was thought to propitiate the gods. From Wikipedia:
Teotihuacanos practiced human sacrifice: human bodies and animal sacrifices have been found during excavations of the pyramids at Teotihuacan. Scholars believe that the people offered human sacrifices as part of a dedication when buildings were expanded or constructed. The victims were probably enemy warriors captured in battle and brought to the city for ritual sacrifice to ensure the city could prosper. Some men were decapitated, some had their hearts removed, others were killed by being hit several times over the head, and some were buried alive.
And remember what the Aztec sacrifices were like: victims were laid over an altar and their chest ripped open with an obsidian knife, their heart snatched from the chest cavity and raised, still beating to the sky. Surely some of these victims remained alive briefly without a heart (see this video). According to some accounts, thousands were sacrificed per year by the Aztecs; we’re not so sure about the toll at Teotihuacan.
Human sacrifice as shown in the Codex Magliabechiano: