I’m not ashamed to admit it – I’m a geek when it comes to archaeology. So, I thoroughly loved exploring Teotihuacán – The place where gods are born. Never have I visited a place shrouded with so much mystery.
Who built Teotihuacán? Why was it built? Historians have long known the answers to these questions for most of the world’s ancient complexes thanks to adequate evidence and written records. Nearly everyone can list a fact or two about famous sites such as the Pyramids of Giza and the Colosseum in Rome. Within México there is extensive evidence to provide historical background for sites like Chichén Itzá and Tulum. However, when it comes to the ruins of Teotihuacán, even the most educated answers to these questions are mere speculation. I found this flabbergasting. How is it possible we are still unable to pinpoint the civilization responsible for some of the tallest pyramids in the world?
I walked along the Avenue of the Dead, the pathway that runs between the two main pyramids, pondering the information discovered thus far. The site was constructed somewhere between 200 BCE and 300 CE, more than 800 years before the construction of Chichén Itzá. Its creators are known only as the Teotihuácanos, and facts about them are limited. At its peak, the population was nearly 200,000 and rivaled ancient Athens and Rome in size and importance. My brain soon filled to the brim with question marks.
I decided to clear my mind with a jog up the third tallest pyramid in the world, the Pyramid of the Sun.
As I climbed I was able to see the entirety of the complex. Scientists have discovered in recent decades that the placement of the buildings on the site reflect a knowledge of astronomy. Throughout the year, the Pyramid of the Sun and the Moon served as fixed points for telling time. On one day of the year, August 13th, the sunset is perfectly aligned with the point of the Pyramid of the Sun. Coincidentally, the Maya believed August 13th to be the day the Earth was born.
Descending the Pyramid of the Sun was difficult due to the incredibly narrow steps. Perhaps the Teotihuácanos had tiny feet! As I climbed down the small stone steps, my mind was reeling with the fact that these impressive structures were built without the help of the wheel, pack animals, or modern construction techniques. It’s no wonder the Aztec thought this place was built by the gods.