Teotihuacan History

The ancient city of Teotihuacan

This site was a large settlement in 150BC, and the sixth-largest city in the world by 600AD. The massive pyramid structures would have been painted red to glow under the sun.

Despite the big structures left behind, there isn’t that much information about the history of Teotihuacan.

Amazingly enough, although Teotihuacan has been the subject of archaeological research since 1885, no-one has yet been able to uncover a single royal tomb.

Various teams of researchers have, however, been able to build up a picture of the way of life of the Mexicans who inhabited the ancient settlement.

Thanks to sophisticated irrigation techniques, they were able to develop an agricultural system capable of providing food for a large city.

Trade flourished and the influence of Teotihuacan was felt far beyond the central Mexican highlands.

The Teotihuacanos even had their own district in the Mayan city of Tikal in Guatemala, 1,025 kilometres away as the crow flies.

By contrast with the Mayas, there exist no written records of Teotihuacan culture.

Archaeologists had to wait until just a few years ago for the discovery of several modest hieroglyphics on the floor of La Ventilla Palace. Nor can anyone be certain of the city’s real name.

The name Teotihuacan, meaning “the place where one becomes a god”, stems from the time of the Aztecs, who found nothing but ruins when they came upon the city during the course of their migration to central Mexico in the 12th century.

The glory and splendour of Teotihuacan came to an end around 700 AD. Project coordinator Cabrera speculates that soil erosion may have led to food shortages and that these could have been the trigger for civil unrest. Perhaps the city was attacked by rapacious nomads. All that is certain is that fire swept through Teotihuacan, causing to population to abandon the city.

Teotihuacan in Mexico

The pyramids and temple complex still visible today represent only 10 per cent of Teotihuacan’s total surface area of 22 square kilometres. Most of the city remains hidden, but deep inside the Pyramid of the Moon, Cabrera’s team continues its excavations. Perhaps this year they will find a king after all