Tulum. Chichen Itza. Palenque. Coba. When people think of the ancient ruins in Mexico, most think about the Mayan culture (and the Mayan calendar). But, other cultures flourished in Mexico. Many of the ancient ruins from the other great civilizations can also be visited today. And I recommend a visit to the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon. I recommend you visit Teotihuacan.
The Origin of the Mexico City Pyramids
Most visitors initially believe the pyramids are Aztec in origin. I did. But, I learned the pyramids located at Teotihuacan date back to the 100 BCE which predate the Aztec empire.
The Aztecs named it Teotihuacan however. For them it was, “the place where men become gods” and they considered the site a holy place and kept it unpopulated. But as for its ethnic origin, it remains a debate today.
Archaeologists discovered evidence of many other cultures on site and most agree the city seems to have a multi-ethnic history. They agree the culture and architecture seemed influenced by the original Olmec people and most scholars also agree the city reached its height of power in the mid first millennia with a potential 200,000 inhabitants. But as for who built the pyramids, it remains a mystery.
Pyramid of the Sun, Pyramid of the Moon
The two dominating structures, The Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon, serve essentially as the bookends to the ruins. Between them visitors take passage along the main, misnamed street, the Avenue of the Dead.
And although no evidence of tombs were ever uncovered the walk up the avenue puts the size and structures of the site into perspective. Perhaps it’s the sense of a greater power when passing down the avenue that makes the name seem to fit today. It’s impressive and very memorable. And it’s almost as memorable as the climbs.
The climbs. Steep climbs. (Yes, that’s plural)
At Teotihuacan both pyramids can be climbed. And I climbed them both. The Pyramid of the Sun is the third highest in the world and just a few meters shorter than the famous Pyramid Giza found in Egypt.
The climb offers the sense of spiritual and physical accomplishment, but the better view is from the Pyramid of the Moon. From there you can see up the entire Avenue of the Dead and the Pyramid of the Sun.
But it’s not just all about the pyramids either.
The Observatory and the Museum
For the star gazers, check out the ruins of the observatory as part of your tour of Teotihuacan. Ancient cultures often looked to the heavens and the night sky for guidance and prophecy. At Teotihuacan you find a simple reflection pool enabled them to see much further (in many ways) than we do today. Stand there and wonder what the ancients learned and also what decisions were based upon their discovery.
Also, the Museum is worth a visit. It offers a great break from the intense sun (there is no shade at the ruins) and provides deeper insight into the civilization(s) that called Teotihuacan home. Plus a scale model of the place allows you to see the site in its “original state.”
Teotihuacan may not be Maya, but it’s impressive. The site let’s you wonder who lived here? How did they build the Pyramid of the Sun and Moon? And it lets you climb high up to the sky. It’s definitely worth a visit when you travel to Mexico City as it is only 40 kilometers away in the state of Mexico.
stay adventurous, Craig
This post is part of the Mexico Today program. I am being compensated for my work in creating content as a Contributor for the México Today Program. All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared in my blog are completely my own.