Welcome to Teotihuacán
To help us better understand the present, we need to understand the past. A good place to start this quest for understanding is one of the world’s great prehistoric civilizations: Teotihuacán, Mexico.
Teotihuacán was at its height from about the first to the fifth century, when it was among the world’s most inhabited cities with as many as 150,000 residents. Today the city lies in ruins, making it one of the most significant archaeological sites in Mexico. It is also the most visited.
Teotihuacán was a major religious center as you’ll see from the many religious monuments and structures found here. Its residents worshipped some of the same gods that other Mesoamerican cultures did. They engaged in human sacrifices, since human and animal remains were found in tombs. It is believed the sacrifices were made when structures were expanded.
Teotihuacáns seem enigmatic as we look back on them today. They were said to be a peaceful community of farmers, since the city contains no defensive structures. However, their temples contain many symbols of war.
The city was abandoned in the seventh or eighth centuries for reasons that are not known for certain. Archeologists believe the decline was probably caused by overpopulation and depletion of natural resources. It was the Aztecs who gave Teotihuacán its name, when they arrived here in about 1320. The name means “City of Gods,” and they believed the gods had gathered here to create the sun and moon after the last world ended. From their base in Tenochtitlán (in what is now Mexico City) they used it as pilgrimage destination.
Teotihuacán is located about 50 km (30 miles) north of Mexico City, making it very doable as a day trip if you want to explore this fascinating ancient culture.