One of the world’s most impressive archaeological sites on a high plateau in the Basin of Mexico is Teotihuacán, a city that continues to baffle historians. It is unknown what race of people built it, what they used it for, or why it was deserted. While the remnants are astonishing, it is believed that 90 percent of the city is still buried under the dry Mexican soil. This great city at its peak once held upwards of 200,000 inhabitants, so what exactly happened to Teotihuacán?
The name Teotihuacán, translates to “The great city where men become gods”, was given to the city by later Aztec races who were amazed by this marvelous metropolitan structure. The nucleus of the 8-square mile city is a giant building referred to as the Pyramid of the Sun, which is a 216-foot tall, and 700-foot wide building with a temple at its peak indicating that the city was ruled by an aboriginal religion. At the bottom of the Pyramid of the Sun is a 3-mile road which runs north to south. The Aztecs dubbed this road the ‘Avenue of the Dead’, because the mounds on the side of it looked like tombs. In actuality, they were temples, as it has since been discovered that the Teotihuacán lay their dead to rest inside their own houses.
At the northern end of the Avenue of the Dead, close to the Pyramid of the Sun was a smaller structure, named Pyramid of the Moon. At the southern end of the Avenue of the Dead, was the third largest pyramid called Temple of the Feathered Serpent, which was surrounded by a structure with high walls and a large courtyard called ‘The Citadel”. The courtyard was big enough to house the entire population of Teotihuacán. Shortly after 200 AD, another road was built intersecting the Avenue of the Dead at its halfway point which divided the city into a grid system of four quarters. The houses were built as a network of adjacent residences connected by patios complete with functioning drainage, and water-supply systems. The building of the city began in 200 Bc, with the major structured being constructed in 1 AD. By 500 AD, the city already had 100,000 people, and within 200 years, the population had doubled.
Archaeologists and enthusiastic historians do not really know who the inhabitants were. The civilization thrived much too early to be the Aztecs, and despite having similar styles of architecture and social engineering, the Toltec race didn’t appear until 200 years after the building of Teotihuacán. It is suspected that the Olmecs, a race of great builders who flourished in 1500 BC through 1 AD, could possibly be there ancestors but there is no credible proof to confirm this as the records left behind by the Teotihuacán have never been successfully translated. Whoever did establish the city of Teotihuacán, did so with a sense of intelligence and a strict regard for religion.
Teotihuacán was abandoned around the year 800 AD, despite the inhabitants having a structured and privileged life. The causes of the fall are unknown, but possibilities include that the population may have been too great, a prolonged drought, or an epidemic. It’s more likely that an internal conflict ensued, or conflict with invading groups attacking the city such as barbarians from the northern region. Excavations have found that large fires were started in the city during its last days, mostly involving structures and dwellings associated with the ruling class. Which make some suggest that the burning was from an internal uprising.
While the origins of Teotihuacán is unknown, it seemed to have a cast influence throughout the Mexican region. Experts contemplate the notion that the fleeing citizens of Teotihuacán founded another town with similar pyramid structures at a site a 1000 miles away in Kaminaljuyú. Even though there has been a 100 years of intense historical investigation, the mystery of Teotihuacán remains just as it has for over a thousand years now.