Teotihuacán and the National Museum of Anthropology – Mexico City, Mexico
Where the Gods Were Born
No one knows who built or inhabited Teotihuacán, a monumental city of pyramids, palaces, and temples. It is thought to have been settled around 100 B.C. and to have had more than 100,000 residents (some estimates say twice that) by A.D. 500. For the first six centuries A.D., Teotihuacán was possibly the most influential seat of political, religious, and cultural power in Central America. The Aztecs, who arrived later, believed that the cosmos was created here.
So close to Mexico City and yet so far away, Teotihuacán covers more than 8 square miles and in its time was larger than contemporary Rome, making it then the biggest city in the world. By 700 it was mysteriously abandoned; some scholars believe it may have come to a sudden and violent end, possibly through arson.
A stroll down the pyramid-lined Avenue of the Dead, from the Pyramid of the Sun to the Pyramid of the Moon, underlines the symmetry and majesty of its architecture, all laid out in accordance with celestial movements – a meeting place of the gods, the heavens, the earth, and mankind.
A new state-of-the-art museum on the site helps eliminate much of the ruins’ mystery, although many of the artifacts excavated here are on display at the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City. A trip to this museum is guaranteed to bring alive Mesoamerica’s pre-conquest era in all its brilliance and splendor. One of the finest anthropological and archaeological museums anywhere, its collections are housed in an award-winning building reminiscent of the timeless grandeur of an Aztec temple. The Aztec calendar sun stone (the museum’s pièce de résistance), elaborately feathered Aztec headdresses, exquisite pieces of gold or alabaster, and the simple instruments that were used in everyday life can be just as evocative as a crumbling ruin at the end of a jungle trek.