Teotihuacan – Gateway To The Ancients

On our arrival in Mexico in early 2019, we landed in Mexico City after nightfall. After a slightly hair-raising drive out of the city in the dark, having to compete with unknown roads, a very different driving style, and wild dogs randomly appearing on the roads as we drove about thirty miles northeast, we found ourselves in a hotel a few hundred yards from the ruins of Teotihuacan – although in the dark we didn’t see them that night.

The following morning we set off for the site, and having paid our entrance fee we made two very good choices – an early arrival, and entering to park behind the Pyramid of the Sun rather than around at the main entrance to the site. This meant initially avoiding all of the stalls selling souvenirs, and meant that the famous Pyramid of the Sun was the first sight we saw on arrival, and also the first building we arrived at, allowing us to climb it before it got too busy later in the day.

The Pyramid of the Sun was built around 200CE, a couple of centuries before Teotihuacan reached its peak, and several centuries before the whole city was abandoned between about 600CE and 750CE. Why, exactly, the city was abandoned is still a matter for debate – as many public buildings were burned around the year 600, some claim it was an uprising against the rulers from within the city, while others theorise that an outside invasion began the downfall. Either way, people seem to have slowly drifted away from the city to leave it empty by 750.

As you climb up the Pyramid of the Sun, you feel the effort that must have gone into building that single temple, let along the entire city. The structure itself stands at two hundred and sixteen feet, roughly half the height of the Great Pyramid at Giza, but you are starting your climb at an altitude of a little over seven thousand feet. Having landed only the night before, and having travelled from just above sea level in our home on the Isle of Wight, we found our hearts racing by the time we reached the top – something to bear in mind if you make a visit to the site.

After the Pyramid of the Sun, we climbed its sister temple, the Pyramid of the Moon. For me, this was a better view than from the top of the taller pyramid. The Pyramid of the Moon is a little over half the height of the Pyramid of the Sun, but stands at the end of the Street of the Dead, and so from the top you look down across the whole site in a single view. It was here that I found myself musing not about the end, but rather about the origins of the city.

When the Aztecs first rediscovered the city in the fifteenth century they named it Teotihuacan, meaning ‘the place where the gods were born’. Looking out across the site it is easy to understand why the Aztecs would have thought that. Trying to imagine the people of 300BCE starting a city here, and all of these structures being built by people by the fifth century really took some effort. Especially as we know so little about the people that built it, including who they were.

 

It was once thought that the Toltec people had built the city, but as they only came to prominence in around 900CE, nearly two hundred years after Teotihuacan’s decline, this theory is now generally considered to be incorrect. Other people look to the Totonac tribe, or even unnamed people who had fled to the area after a natural disaster and built the city up from humble beginnings.

 

Whoever built it, and for whatever reason it was abandoned, the site today stands as one of the best historical sites of its type that I have ever visited, and I would strongly advise that if you are heading to Mexico at any point in the future, this is definitely a site that you should be planning to visit!

Happy adventuring, and please, take unbelievably good care of yourselves, and of each other!

Greg

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