How to get thereFrom Mexico City by metro line 5 to Autobuses del Norte, from there continuing by bus (Counter 8, Bay 6) or line 3 to Indios Verdes, from there also by bus; by car about 50km/31mi on Insurgentes Norte, which turns into the MEX 85.Teotihuacán, to date the largest pre-Columbian site so far excavated in Meso-America, is situated in an area devoid of all trees, on the edge of the high-lying valley of Anáhuac.
Beyond the entrance there is a museum housed in the Unidad Cultural. With its displays reinforced by chronological tables and a large model of the site it gives the visitor a good overview of the history of Teotihuacán. The museum was once the site of Teotihuacán's enormous market place.
Street of the Dead
Beyond the Unidad Cultural is the 4km/2.5mi long and 45 m (148 ft) wide main street "Miccaotli", erroneously called the "Street of the Dead" (Calle de los Muertos), which runs in a north-south direction from the moon pyramid. On crossing the street an impressive rectangular site is reached, surrounded by four platforms, known as the citadel (ciudadela). It is assumed that this was a place of worship and a dwelling-place for the priests and rulers. The ciudadela is a fine example of what is for Teotihuacán a style which recurs again and again, the talud-tablero style (sloping wall/sheer wall), with in this case the sheer part with its framed panels predominating. Frames and panels used to be covered with a thick layer of stucco, which was itself covered with colourful frescos. The talud-tablero style of building was borrowed in other pre-Columbian places (Monte Albán, Xochicalco, Kaminaljuyú, Tula, etc.), usually in a slightly altered form.
Temple of Quetzalcóatl
In the middle of the ciudadela stands the temple of Quetzalcóatl. This pyramid, which was twice extended upwards, is principally distinguished by its original 366 sculptures, a rarity in a city in which very few stone sculptures have been found. To whom this shrine was actually consecrated is not known, except that it has some connection with rain and maize. One of the two alternating types of sculptures is that of a serpent; its head is framed with blossom leaves or feathers, its body surrounded by shell and snail motives representing water. The other type of sculpture is a stylised mask, possibly that of the rain god Tláloc or a maize god, represented by large round eyes and a pair of fangs. The remains of paint can still be seen on the stone figures, which once must have been covered with stucco. In 1986 a burial chamber was discovered with the skeletons of 18 priests who, it would appear, underwent ritual sacrifice around AD 150. This sensational find offered proof that it was not just slaves and prisoners who were put to death in this way, but also high-ranking personages. The victims, whose hands had been tied behind their backs, had teeth inlaid with jade and other precious stones and were surrounded by shells, arrowheads and small clay figures.
Patio de los Cuatro Templitos
Returning from the Sun Pyramid along the "Street of the Dead", on the left on a terrace we see the remains of four temples, which have been called the Patio of the Four Small Temples (Patio de los Cuatro Templitos). Further on, on the right-hand side, we see a long primitive wall said to have been built by the Chichimecs. Behind it, underneath a protective roof, there are interesting wall paintings depicting a jaguar of about 2m/6.5ft in length. Before the street opens out into the Square of the Moon Pyramid (Plaza de la Pirámide de la Luna), we see on the left the Temple of the Mythological Animals (Templo de los Animales Mitológicos), in which the remains of frescos of animal figures have been found, and the Temple of Agriculture (Templo de la Agricultura), the original frescos of which, depicting plants, cannot be viewed - only copies of them.
Going on down the "Street of the Dead" in the direction of the moon pyramid, after some 400 m (1320 ft) we come to the remains of the Superimposed Buildings (Edificios Superpuestos) on our left. These once included an antechamber with six columns, a large courtyard with a staircase, a small temple, arcades and various other rooms. On some of the walls it is still possible to see the remains of frescos.
A little further to the north past the Superimposed Buildings we come to the Viking Group (Grupo Viking), which is named after an American foundation which has been active here. On this site, which includes two inner courtyards, two slabs of mica, each 6 cm (2in.) thick, were found in one of the courtyards. The purpose of these pieces of mica has given rise to much speculation.
South of the Sun Pyramid (Entrance 5) lies an excellent museum which was opened in 1995. It provides a general picture of the site and its former inhabitants, and contains recently uncovered finds as well as a communal grave containing nine male and four female sacrificial victims who were found near the Quetzalcoátl temple. Particularly impressive is the glass floor in the main room with a large model of Teotihuacán.
Square of the Moon Pyramid
The symmetry and layout of the site makes the Square of the Moon Pyramid (Plaza de la Pirámide de la Luna) at the end of the street one of the most impressive examples of architectural planning in the whole of Teotihuacán. This ceremonial area consists of steps and pyramid-like platforms, mostly of four storeys, which originally were crowned, like the main pyramid, with temples. In the middle there is a large rectangular altar.
Palace of the Quetzal Butterfly
On the left-hand side stands the Palace of the Quetzal Butterfly (Palacio del Quetzalpapálotl). This palace, which was probably used as living quarters by the high priests, is possibly the finest and most important dwelling-place in the city. It is richly decorated and boasts well-preserved frescos. A staircase, which is embellished by an enormous serpent's head, leads to an antechamber decorated with wall-paintings. This leads into a small arched courtyard with square columns which are covered with interesting bas-reliefs depicting the mythological figure of the Quetzal butterfly as well as symbols of birds and water. The reliefs were originally painted and inlaid with layers of obsidian which have been partially preserved. Equally remarkable are the heavily stylised figures painted on a red background and the roof edges decorated with symbols connected with the different parts of the year.
Palace of the Jaguars
The Palace of the Jaguars (Palacio de los Jaguares) adjoins the Palace of the Quetzal Butterfly and has many remarkable early wall-paintings, which include depictions of predatory cats with human heads and jaguars blowing into shells. On a frieze symbols of the rain god and the year can still be made out.
Subestructura de los Caracoles Emplumados
A tunnel leads to part of what is probably the oldest building in Teotihuacán. Known as the Subestructura de los Caracoles Emplumados (Substructure of the Feathered Snails), it lies hidden away beneath the Palace of the Quetzal Butterfly. The largest of the remaining facades, which once belonged to a temple, is decorated with superb reliefs. Snails decorated with colourful feathers (musical instruments?), green birds (parrots?) and four-leaved flowers are all visible.
At the north end of the square stands the imposing Pirámide de la Luna (Moon Pyramid). Its front-facing side is made up of a five-storey pyramidal building in the talud-tablero style. The wide flight of steps leads to the actual pyramid itself, which consists of four staggered storeys. The ground area measures 140 3 150 m (460 3 490 ft), while the height reaches 46 m (151 ft). Although 17 m (56 ft) lower than the Sun Pyramid, its summit is on the same level thanks to the higher terrain. The steps merely lead up to the third level. From the summit of the Moon Pyramid there is also a fine view across the whole of the site.During the dry season a son et lumière performance takes place six times a week.
More Teotihuacan Pictures