Teotihuacan, site of an ancient mysterious civilization that built the monumental Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon is located on a broad valley in central Mexico surrounded by framing hills. The site is close enough to Mexico City (a mere 30 miles northeast) to be subject to the persistent gray pollution that settles over the capital, but even in haze the pyramids soar from the plain in majestic splendor. Unlike many other ruins visitors can still climb to the top of the Sun Pyramid and about 3/4 of the way to the top of the Moon Pyramid, both of which offer panoramic views that crystallize the size of the site and the architectural wizardry of the original builders.
Yet even with all these physical remains, virtually nothing is known about the original inhabitants, who built the city between 100 B.C. and A.D. 750. By the time the Aztecs arrived in the 1300′s the site was abandoned; they named it Teotihuacan, meaning “the place where men become gods” in their language. It is not hard to imagine why they named it thus. If we are still astounded by these pyramids, how much more so must they have been? No evidence of the original builders, neither their culture nor tombs of their rulers, has ever been discovered, despite ongoing excavation and exploratory work at the site for the past 100 years. But that may soon change.
In 2003, scientists began to speculate that there was a hidden chamber at the foot of the least impressive of the pyramids, the Temple of Quetzacoatl, when heavy rainstorms caused the ground to sink at the foot of the temple. After years of preparatory work, archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) began excavating the site in 2009, uncovering an entrance to a tunnel leading to a series of underground galleries after only eight months of work. Excavation of the tunnel, which was closed off by the original inhabitants some 1800 years ago, has yielded 60,000 artifacts and pieces of pottery unlike anything previously found at the site, making officials hopeful that it may indeed lead to a tomb of ancient rulers.
At the moment, excavations continue because a dome of debris, apparently thrown into the tunnel prior to closing it off, blocks the entrance to the tomb. However, the ancient riddle of the builders of Teotihuacan may soon be solved. With it’s close proximity to Mexico City, Teotihuacan can easily be visited on day trip from Mexico City, via the northern bus station, TAPO. Buses run all day long and no advance purchase is required.
Photo Credit: Barbara Weibel
Article by Barbara Weibel of Cultural Travel with Hole In The Donut