Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Teotihuacan, Mexico - Pyramid of Moon, Street of the Dead



Golden Eagle Sacrifice

Pyramid of Death

At the Pyramid of the Moon in central Mexico, humans and animals were buried alive. Excavations reveal the remains of sacrifices once witnessed by thousands of spectators.

By A. R. Williams
Photograph by Jesús Eduardo López Reyes

Even the ferocious Aztec were awed by their first glimpse of Teotihuacan. By the 13th century when the Aztec swept into central Mexico, the once teeming city—which reached its zenith around a.d. 400—had been long since abandoned by its mysterious builders. Its grand ceremonial center, where tens of thousands of people had gathered amid sacred monuments of stone, lay under thick green overgrowth. The Aztec gave the site its name and identified its most imposing features according to their own beliefs—the Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon. Assuming that some of the buildings were tombs, they called the main thoroughfare Street of the Dead.

They were, as it turns out, uncannily accurate. Burials both rich and gruesome have recently been discovered in the Pyramid of the Moon during excavations headed by Rubén Cabrera Castro, of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, and Saburo Sugiyama, of Japan’s Aichi Prefectural University. Tunneling deep into the 140-foot-tall stone structure, the archaeologists located five burial sites. After most of the dirt and debris had been dug out, each site was reinforced with steel beams for safety. Supplied with fresh air pumped in from the outside, the archaeologists scraped the last layers of earth from the floor to reveal scenes of carnage: disembodied heads and the remains of foreign warriors and dignitaries, carnivorous mammals, birds of prey, and deadly reptiles.

Evidence indicates that all the victims were ritually killed to consecrate successive stages of the pyramid’s construction (illustration below). The earliest sacrifice, from about a.d. 200, marked a substantial enlargement of the building. A wounded foreigner, most likely a prisoner of war, was apparently buried alive with his hands tied behind him (opposite). Animals representing mythical powers and military might surrounded him—pumas, a wolf, eagles, a falcon, an owl, and rattlesnakes—some buried alive in cages. Finely crafted offerings included weapons of obsidian and a figurine of solid greenstone, perhaps a war goddess to whom the burial was dedicated. Each subsequent burial was different, but all had the same aim: “Human sacrifice was important to control the people,” says Sugiyama, “to convince them to do what their rulers wanted.”

Teotihuacan was one of the first true urban centers in the Western Hemisphere, covering nearly eight square miles at its heyday. Precious artifacts recovered from the Pyramid of the Moon and other structures reveal that this was a wealthy trade metropolis with far-reaching connections. Inexplicably, the city suffered sudden and violent collapse in about a.d. 600 and much of the population fled. They left few written records, just the ruins of their city and intriguing clues about a once powerful culture.



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Did You Know?
In Did You Know? the National Geographic magazine team shares extra information we gathered to expand your knowledge of our featured subjects.

No, aliens did not design Teotihuacan, nor is it related to the lost city of Atlantis. Ever since the first aerial photographs of Teotihuacan were taken in the 1960s, the city's specific and precise layout has confounded scientists and scholars. The entire city is organized in a rigid grid system based on its central avenue, the Street of the Dead. This main street, however, is not oriented on a true north-south axis, but is offset by an exact 15.5º east of true north, a curiosity that has perplexed scholars and led to a variety of explanations throughout the years.

One of the more popular hypotheses suggests that the setting sun is at a 90º angle to the Street of the Dead on the days of the zenith (when the sun passes directly overhead). Some scholars, however, dismiss this hypothesis, stating that the math just doesn't add up. In the early 1970s, Colgate University astronomer and archaeologist Anthony Aveni suggested that a point 90º west of the Street of the Dead marked the setting position of the Pleiades, a star cluster linked to the Mesoamerican calendar, at about the time Teotihuacan was founded. However, Vincent Malmstrom, professor emeritus at Dartmouth College, argued a few years later that a point 90º west of the Street of the Dead marks the spot where, twice a year–on April 30 and August 13–the sun sets directly opposite the Pyramid of the Sun. Malmstrom believes this to be significant because the latter date is the day the ancient Maya believed the world began.

No conclusive explanation of why the founders of Teotihuacan oriented their city in such a specific way exists. Scientists and scholars are baffled and will, without a doubt, continue to look for clues to this one mystery among many that Teotihuacan holds.

—Agnieszka Siemiginowska


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to anyone ,the pyramid of the sun ,,is much older ,,I have prof
the people had been test for virus or something similar ,, not all are sacrificios,,,,,
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