A robot from The National Anthropology and History Institute has found three burial chambers under the Temple of The Feathered Serpent in the ancient city of Teotihuacān in Mexico. The scientists were surprised to find three separate burial chambers, instead of just one.
Teotihuacān is a Nahuatl (Aztec) name meaning “place where gods were born”. It’s founding is incredibly mysterious, no one really knowing for sure who founded it or why. For many years, archaeologists believed it was built by the Toltec, which translated, means “craftsman of the highest level” (which sounds eerily similar to Freemasonry’s ‘Master Mason’). “Toltec” also refers to an ethnic group ; However, since Toltec civilization flourished centuries after Teotihuacan, the people could not have been the city’s founders.
Scholars have speculated that the eruption of the Xitle volcano may have forced a mass migration out of the central valley and into the Teotihuacan valley. These settlers may have founded and/or sped up the growth of Teotihuacan. Other scholars have put forth the Totonac people as the founders of Teotihuacan. There is evidence that at least some of the people living in Teotihuacan immigrated from those areas influenced by the Teotihuacano civilization, including the Zapotec, Mixtec and Maya peoples.
The city’s broad central avenue, called “Avenue of the Dead” (a translation from its Nahuatl name Miccoatli), is flanked by impressive ceremonial architecture, including the immense Pyramid of the Sun (third largest in the World after the Great Pyramid of Cholula and the Great Pyramid of Giza). Along the Avenue of the Dead are many smaller talud-tablero platforms. The Aztecs believed they were tombs, inspiring the name of the avenue. Now scholars have established these were ceremonial platforms that were topped with temples.
Further down the Avenue of the Dead is the area known as the Citadel, containing the ruined Temple of the Feathered Serpent. This area was a large plaza surrounded by temples that formed the religious and political center of the city. The name “Citadel” was given to it by the Spanish, who believed it was a fort. Most of the common people lived in large apartment buildings spread across the city. Many of the buildings contained workshops where artisans produced pottery and other goods.
The geographical layout of Teotihuacan is a good example of the Mesoamerican tradition of planning cities, settlements and buildings as a representation of the view of the Universe. Its urban grid is aligned to precisely 15.5º east of North. One theory says this is due to the fact that the sun rose at that same angle during the same summer day each year. Settlers used the alignment to calibrate their sense of time or as a marker for planting crops or performing certain rituals. Another theory is that there are numerous ancient sites in Mesoamerica that seem to be oriented with the tallest mountain in their given area. This appears to be the case at Teotihuacan, although the mountain to which it is oriented is not visible from within the Teotihuacan complex due to a closer mountain ridge. Pecked-cross circles throughout the city and in the surrounding regions indicate how the people managed to maintain the urban grid over long distances. It also enabled them to orient the Pyramids to the distant mountain that was out of sight.
The builders of Teotihuacan took advantage of the geography in the Basin of Mexico. From the swampy ground, they constructed raised beds, called chinampas. This allowed for the formation of channels, and subsequently canoe traffic to transport food from farms around the city.
The earliest buildings at Teotihuacan date to about 200 BC. The largest pyramid, the Pyramid of the Sun, was completed by 100 AD.
At its peak, the city covered over 30 km² (over 11½ square miles), and perhaps housed a population of 150,000 people, with one estimate reaching as high as 250,000. Various districts in the city housed people from across the Teotihuacano region of influence, which spread south as far as Guatemala. Notably absent from the city are fortifications and military structures.
It is believed that Teotihuacan had a major influence on the Preclassic and Classic Maya, most likely by conquering several Maya centers and regions, including Tikal and the region of Peten, and influencing Maya culture.
The city was a center of industry, home to many potters, jewelers and craftsmen. Teotihuacan is known for producing a great number of obsidian artifacts. No ancient Teotihuacano non-ideographic texts are known to exist (or known to have existed). Inscriptions from Maya cities show that Teotihuacan nobility traveled to, and perhaps conquered, local rulers as far away as Honduras. Maya inscriptions note an individual nicknamed by scholars as “Spearthrower Owl”, apparently ruler of Teotihuacan, who reigned for over 60 years and installed his relatives as rulers of Tikal and Uaxactun in Guatemala.
Archaeological evidence suggests that Teotihuacan was a multi-ethnic city, with distinct quarters occupied by Otomi, Zapotec, Mixtec, Maya and Nahua peoples. The Totonacs have always maintained that they were the ones who built it. The Aztecs repeated that story, but it has not been corroborated by archaeological findings.
Teotihuacan was a mix of residential and work areas. Elite homes were usually compounds which housed multiple elite families (one home was found that was capable of housing 60-100 families). Elite residences were typically made of plaster, each wall in every section elaborately decorated with murals. These compounds or apartment complexes were typically found within the city center. The vast lakes of the Basin of Mexico provided the opportunity for people living around them to construct productive raised beds, or chinampas, from swampy muck, construction that also produced channels between the beds. Different sections of the city housed particular ethnic groups and immigrants. Typically, these sections of the city were speaking multiple languages.
In their landmark 1992 volume, An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya, Miller and Taube list eight deities:
- The Storm God
- The Great Goddess
- The Feathered Serpent.An important deity in Teotihuacan; most closely associated with the Feathered Serpent Pyramid.
- The Old God
- The War Serpent. Taube has differentiated two different serpent deities whose depictions alternate on the Feathered Serpent Pyramid: the Feathered Serpent and what he calls the “War Serpent”. Other researchers are more skeptical.
- The Netted Jaguar
- The Pulque God
- The Fat God. Known primarily from figurines and so assumed to be related to household rituals.
Esther Pasztory adds one more:
- The Flayed God. Known primarily from figurines and so assumed to be related to household rituals.
The consensus among scholars is that the primary deity of Teotihuacan was the Great Goddess of Teotihuacan.
The dominant civic architecture is the pyramid. Politics were based on the state religion; religious leaders were the political leaders.
Teotihuacanos practiced human sacrifice: human bodies and animal sacrifices have been found during excavations of the pyramids at Teotihuacan. Scholars believe that the people offered human sacrifices as part of a dedication when buildings were expanded or constructed. The victims were probably enemy warriors captured in battle and brought to the city for ritual sacrifice to ensure the city could prosper. Some men were decapitated, some had their hearts removed, others were killed by being hit several times over the head, and some were buried alive. Animals that were considered sacred and represented mythical powers and military were also buried alive, imprisoned in cages: cougars, a wolf, eagles, a falcon, an owl, and even venomous snakes.
Numerous stone masks have been found at Teotihuacan, and have been generally believed to have been used during a funerary context,although some scholars call this into question, noting that masks “do not seem to have come from burials”.
Scholars had thought that invaders attacked the city in the 7th or 8th century, sacking and burning it. More recent evidence, however, seems to indicate that the burning was limited to the structures and dwellings associated primarily with the elite class. Some think this suggests that the burning was from an internal uprising. They say the invasion theory is flawed because early archaeological work on the city was focused exclusively on the palaces and temples, places used by the elites. Because all of these sites showed burning, archaeologists concluded that the whole city was burned. Instead, it is now known that the destruction was centered on major civic structures along the Avenue of the Dead. Some statues seem to have been destroyed in a methodical way, with their fragments dispersed.
Evidence for population decline beginning around the 6th century lends some support to the internal unrest hypothesis. The decline of Teotihuacan has been correlated to lengthy droughts related to the climate changes of 535-536 AD. This theory of ecological decline is supported by archaeological remains that show a rise in the percentage of juvenile skeletons with evidence of malnutrition during the 6th century. This finding does not conflict with either of the above theories, since both increased warfare and internal unrest can also be effects of a general period of drought and famine.Other nearby centers such as Cholula, Xochicalco, and Cacaxtla competed to fill the power void left by Teotihuacan’s decline. They may have aligned themselves against Teotihuacan to reduce its influence and power. The art and architecture at these sites emulates Teotihuacan forms, but also demonstrates an eclectic mix of motifs and iconography from other parts of Mesoamerica, particularly the Maya region.
Once they are able, excavation under the pyramid will begin, after which scientists hope to find out how similar the funerary rites were to the Ancient Egyptians. Researchers such as Christopher Everard and others have pointed out that there are simply too many similarities between Mesoamerican and Egyptian civilizations, citing not only archaeological and religious similarities, but also toxicological studies from Egyptian mummies showing coca in their bodies, proving a definitive link to South America.
More evidence of a global ancient civilization has been found, particularly caves in the Grand Canyon that contain giant mummies (~10 ft. tall) and artifacts that are definitely Egyptian. Also noteworthy is Scott Wolter’s investigation on America Unearthed into the boulder from Arkansas showing an Apis Bull, a cult symbol used in Ancient Egypt and in Mithraism.
Unfortunately for humanity, most of these findings are covered up by Rockefeller institutions (ex., the Smithsonian) and stowed away in their private libraries. Hopefully, the findings of the archaeologists will be available to the public, because the findings could change history altogether.
Miller, Mary; and Karl Taube (1993). The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya: An Illustrated Dictionary of Mesoamerican Religion. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05068-6. OCLC 27667317
Sugiyama, Saburo (2003). Governance and Polity at Classic Teotihuacan; in Julia Ann Hendon, Rosemary A. Joyce, “Mesoamerican archaeology”. Wiley-Blackwell.
Pasztory, Esther (1992). “Abstraction and the rise of a utopian state at Teotihuacan”, in Janet Berlo, ed. Art, Ideology, and the City of Teotihuacan, Dumbarton Oaks, pp. 281-320.
Cowgill, George (1997). “State and Society at Teotihuacan, Mexico” (PDF online reproduction). Annual Review of Anthropology (Palo Alto, CA: Annual Reviews Inc) 26 (1): 129–161. doi:10.1146/annurev.anthro.26.1.129. OCLC 202300854
Birmingham Museum of Art (2010). Birmingham Museum of Art : guide to the collection. [Birmingham, Ala]: Birmingham Museum of Art. p. 83. ISBN 978-1-904832-77-5.
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