This morning we met our guide, Kim Goldsmith, Ph.D., Field and Lab Director at New World Archaeological Foundation. Her specialty is on-site clay figurines and she works as an archaeologist in the Teotihuacan Archaeological Zone. Her husband, Alejandro Sarabia, is Site Director at Teotihuacán. We car pooled the 2 miles from the RV park to the Teotihuacán site where Kim gave us a very interesting history of the ancient city of Teotihuacán and its inhabitants.
It was a very large city that covered over 12 square miles and had a population of 200,000 inhabitants. The Olmecs planned the city from the start. The site was stripped bare of vegetation and leveled with a very slight downward slant to facilitate drainage. And you must remember that these people had no metal tools or beasts of burden. It was all done by hand.
Once the site was prepared an underground system of water drainage and supply was constructed before any buildings were constructed. The entire area was then covered with cement, which was almost the same as modern day cement except that the Olmecs used volcanic pebbles in theirs. Then large houses were constructed of stone and wood. One house for each extended family, each of which may have included up to 100 people. All of the houses for the “common people” were identical in shape, layout, size, number of rooms, and wall murals. The priests and rulers may have had grander houses that were located close to the pyramids and temples. At its zenith, about 500 AD, the city had a larger population than that of Rome. Only the foundations of the houses remain except for one house that still has some intact walls with portions of the original wall murals remaining.
The two grandest structures are the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon. Construction of the Pyramid of the Sun began a little after 100 BC, coinciding with the building of Rome’s great monuments. The Pyramid of the Sun is the third largest pyramid in the world, the two largest being the Great Pyramid of Cholula (which we recently visited) and the Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt. The Pyramid of the Sun measures 722 feet per side at the base and is 213 feet high. The Pyramid of the Moon is not as high as the Pyramid of the Sun but because it was built on higher ground, its top is at the same elevation as that of the Pyramid of the Sun.
It is thought to have taken 400 years to complete the construction of the Pyramid of the Sun. I can't begin to imagine the dedication and work ethic of these people who planned a city and stuck with the plan for over 400 years to complete the city. What makes this even more amazing is the fact that their average life span was only about 35 years.
It is not known why the city was abandoned (sometime around 700 AD) but the abandonment probably occurred gradually over a 250-year period. The city's decline began after its zenith (500 AD) when the Toltecs began to rise in power and took over the city. When the Aztecs finally came to power the city was already falling into ruin, yet most people associate the city with the Aztecs.
Several of our group climbed one or both pyramids. I did not climb either pyramid but I do know that Barry climbed the Pyramid of the Sun as I wished him luck when he started. I later spoke with him by walkie-talkie when he was almost to the top. I took a picture but I really can’t tell which of the little ant-like dots is Barry.
A bus tour of Mexico City is scheduled for tomorrow but I’m not sure whether or not I will go. I have been to Mexico City and it is huge (world’s second largest city) and the traffic is a madhouse. There will not be enough time to stop any where long enough to see any of the museums. I also need to be here to check on the motorhomes paint job and pay the painter when he finishes.