San Juan Teotihuacan, 55800 Teotihuacan de Arista, Estado de México, Mexico
GPS: 19.688349483789, -98.845985681419
Teotihuacan is a pre-eminent archaeological site from the Pre-Hispanic era, located more than 2,200 metres above sea level in a valley in the state of Mexico. Formerly the capital of Mexico in classical times, this ancient city is among the most important and enigmatic ruins in the world. Its name was given by the Aztecs when they discovered it abandoned in the late 13th or early 14th century. Overwhelmed by Teotihuacan’s complex urban planning and the sheer size of its buildings, they appropriated the city as a holy place and pilgrimage site from the capital of their empire, Mexico-Tenochtitlan.
Like other archaeological sites in the history of the Americas, the founding origins and causes of Teotihuacan’s decline remain uncertain despite a century of excavations. According to specialists, the pre-Columbian city was built from the 2nd century BC by Amerindian peoples and Mesoamerican civilisations. It could be the Nahuas, the Otomis or the Totonacs, occupying the arid highlands of central Mexico. Some historians suggest that a multi-ethnic group (nicknamed Teotihuacanos) built a large ceremonial, astronomical and residential complex. Clearly, Teotihuacan is a place where cultures coexist among peoples of diverse origins who do not speak the same language. The cosmopolitan metropolis reached its peak around the year 500 or 600, a period during which it would have had more inhabitants than the mythical city of Rome (between 120,000 and 150,000 people according to estimates). It covers an area of about 20 km² and is the political, social, cultural, astronomical and economic centre of Mesoamerica, extending over a vast geographical area from Mexico to Costa Rica.
The fall of Teotihuacan would have occurred in the middle of the 7th century (about 900 years after its foundation), probably due to overpopulation and the scarcity of natural resources. A civil war, a destructive eruption or an uprising of the people against the ruling elite are other hypotheses put forward by archaeologists who believe that the city was never really abandoned. The sprawling site is ten times larger than what is visible today. It is composed of three major pyramids, residential quarters, multiple palaces, various temples and sacrificial altars (human and animal sacrifice having been abundantly practised on the spot). Articulated around the Avenue of the Dead (calle de los Muertos), Teotihuacan is adorned with magnificent murals, frescoes and sculptures carved into the rock. The Pyramid of the Sun, erected on five levels, is the tallest building in the archaeological complex (65 metres high).