Monday 4 June 2018


The place where the gods were created

Egypt is a popular destination to feast one's eyes on the pyramids. Do you know there are many other countries that have pyramids, and each of its architecture is unique to its location? 

In Mexico and Central America, hundreds of these pyramids are designed in different styles. All pyramids, regardless of whether they are from Egypt, Mexico or elsewhere in the world, are believed to have been built for religious purposes. 
Credit: Pinterest

[Credit: YouTube]

Our place of interest, Teotihuacán, is an ancient Mesoamerican city located in a sub-valley of the Valley of Mexico, 40 kilometres north-east of modern-day Mexico City.

Teotihuacán is a vast Mexican archaeological complex that was estimated to be settled around 400 B.C. It became the most powerful and influential city in the region by 400 A.D. but was later abandoned until the Aztecs found it in the 1400s - hence the names of structures and places are in Aztec. 
Its origins, history, and culture is a mystery but according to researchers, it was a major economic as well as religious centre.

Watch The Archaeology of Teotihuacán.

The Layout
Teotihuacán was the most extensively planned ancient city in the New World.  Its resemblance to modern cities is striking and it was ancient urban planning at its best! Major features included – the use of orthogonal grid planning; large overall spatial pattern with big civic buildings in the centre and low-rise residences spreading out; and its location in a semi-arid environment where irrigation agriculture was important.  

A sample of an orthogonal plan [Credit: WikiVisually]

The layout of Teotihuacán [Credit: Pinterest]

The grid layout covering about 20 square kilometres contained about 2,000 single-story apartment compounds, pyramids, plazas, temples and palaces of nobles and priests. The city’s main street, Avenue of the Dead, is a 40-metre-wide, 2.4 km long road and contains three major pyramid complexes - Pyramid of the Moon, Pyramid of the Sun and Temple of the Feathered Serpent.

                                                     Avenue of the Dead [Credit: Wikimedia Commons]
Teotihuacán [Credit: YouTube]

Watch Teotihuacán Overlay in Google Earth 1080p.

Why did the successful Teotihuacán collapse?
Linda Manzanilla, an anthropologist with Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, offered a possible explanation. Based on her examination of parts of the ruins, analysis of human remains and other artifacts found in the area, she believes it was due to clashes between groups with differing economic interests. Tensions between wealthy businessmen, neighbourhood leaders and those that were part of the government, eventually resulted in an angry mob of people burning down major parts (administration and ritual buildings) of the city and trashing sculptures and other iconic structures. This led to the total collapse of the city.

Lessons learnt from the past
Some people see history as just the past that has no significant importance to the present. Is it true? Time and again we have seen history repeating itself in “a bad way”. Is this an indication that we have not learnt from our ancestors?

Power, influence and success are short-lived.  The fantastic complex the people and inhabitants of Teotihuacán created and built is but fragile. Was the collapse of Teotihuacán not just economics and human tension but also urban decay? Does it hold any lessons for the fragility of the urban lifestyle that dominates our world today?

Researchers found clues for the cause of urban decay - evidence from teeth and bones discovered. Pollution and poor sanitation were most likely the cause - the city grew too large that it was unable to feed its population and maintain satisfactory sanitation. 

What do you think?

Was overpopulation tearing at its seams?

Are there similar situations in our urban cities?

Shared by Azni Zainal Abidin
Guest Blogger

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