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Teotihuacan was the most grandiose city in Ancient America.
It is currently one of the most important pre-Hispanic archaeological sites in Mexico, added to the World Heritage List by UNESCO in 1987.
This has meant international recognition for the beauty, precision, magnificence and accurate construction of its pyramids, the planning of its city and observatories, the reasons why it has been considered to be "The city where men become gods"
The Teotihuacan archaeological zone is located in the State of Mexico, 45 Km North-east of Mexico city.
The city is without a doubt an example of grandiosity and planning of an urban settlement, with highlights such as its great monuments and harmonious structure. There is no doubt that this valley has witnessed the development of one of the most important civilisations in America.
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In the Mexican Basin, between the years 500-200 B.C., there were various village settlements around Texcoco lake, mostly dedicated to agriculture and the appropriation of lake resources. The eruption of the Xitle volcano caused some groups to emigrate northwards, leading to the first settlements of what would subsequently be known as Teotihuacan.
That is how Teotihuacan civilisation emerged between 200 B.C. and 700 A.D.. At its apex, around 500 A.D., the surface area of the city was about 20 sq. km. There was an impressive number of temples and residences and the population stood at 120,000 people. At the time, it was the most important population centre in Meso-America, a magnet for pilgrims and traders alike from distant regions over which it exercised an influence.
Some of the reasons for its subsequent decadence are scarcity or lack of water, endemic diseases, invaders from the north...
The name "Teotihuacan" was given to the city by the Aztecs a long time after it was founded and destroyed. This name means "the place where the gods are made", in tribute to the grandiosity of the city that they discovered.
In Teotihuacan, each class occupied a specific place and played a specific role in a significantly hierarchized social structure. Given the theocratic government model, the priests occupied the highest ranking in society and were in charge of the political and economic-administrative aspects needed to run the city. High-level bureaucrats were in charge of administrative work, controlling the production of assets and the management of the city's services.
At the other extreme were the artisan and agricultural sectors, which were in charge of meeting the community's material needs.
There is also evidence of a military class, which was linked to high social status sectors and placed in charge of defence and controlling the tax-paying population.
On another level were the researchers or people dedicated to scientific development, architecture and engineering.
The Teotihuacan economy was based on the obsidian mines and the trading of the products obtained from them. Obsidian is a type of glass of volcanic origins that was used to build work instruments, as well as cult objects and decorations. The control and marketing of this material was of key importance to their economy, which was complemented by agriculture and the textile industry.
The Teotihuacans used to make their clothes from maguey fibres, an authochthonous plant that they combined with furs and even cotton.
The influence of Teotihuacan on other regions has been demonstrated by the extensive network of roads and commercial relations. There is no doubt that trade, as well as religion, was one of the keys to the expansion of this culture.
Their religion was polytheistic and is considered to be the element that enabled ideological control over the population.
Their main gods were:
·HUEHUETÉOTL, the old god of fire, the most ancient deity in the valley.
·XOCHIQUÉTZAL, goddess of beauty and love.
·XIPE-TÓTEC, goddess of fertility.
·TLÁLOC, god of rain.
·QUETZALCÓATL, serpent with beautiful feathers.
Although there were various periods, the most important cults worshipped Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc, who have been depicted on a multitude of objects and artistic representations. Religious symbolism is also represented in how buildings were oriented, as well as in architecture, funeral practices and agricultural activities.
These are the buildings in which the population of Teotihuacan that were not members of the aristocracy or the ruling class lived. The latter lived in luxurious palaces in a walled neighbourhood near what is now known as the Street of the Dead.
These residential ensembles were single-storey apartments in which between 60 and 100 individuals might live together. Over 2,000 homes of this type were built in Teotihuacan. They were made of clay and wood and measured around 150m2, in which various families would live together.
Nowadays, La Ventilla, Tepantita, Tetitla; Atetelco, Zacuala and Yahahuala have been conserved.
They all share a similar structure: courtyards with drains, corridors connecting the rooms, ceremonial area with courtyard, central altar and places of worship. Mural paintings were to be seen on its walls and porticos. All of these structures were circled by a huge windowless outer wall.
The walls in Teotihuacan were fully painted, in both public and private venues. Practically the entire city was painted. The remains of these magnificent murals may be enjoyed today, thanks to the custom of the Teotihuacans of building on the same space and thus conserving previous constructions, hidden under the most recent.
The themes of these paintings were mostly religious. Studies carried out on them have revealed more information on this culture's rituals, ceremonies, social organisation and customs. Of particular note are the details of their clothing and the variety of animals that are depicted. Because they didn't use shadows or perspectives, size is the factor that helps to identify the most important characters.
As mural painting is considered to be an artistic manifestation and a form of visual communication, visitors can visit Teotihuacan Mural Painting Museum, a centre for study and dissemination, where originals and archaeological models are exhibited.
Not only are the masks a notable form of artistic expression, they also denote the importance given to the gods in Teotihuacan culture. These masks were used in the burial of noteworthy dead, who were considered to be "teutl" or divinized heroes. They had to wear the masks for the transit because gods never show their faces. The fact of wearing the mask enabled them to enjoy a heroic existence in the next life.
They were sculpted by artists from extremely hard stones. Although they do not reproduce the facial features, they do portray the spirit of the Teotihuacan people. This is the reason why they are among the symbols that are most representative of their culture.
Experts consider Teotihuacan masks to be of exceptional beauty and define them as the most precious objects of art to be found in the Mexican country.