Ancient Inhabitants of the Great City of Teotihuacan in Mexico Farmed Rabbits

Ancient Inhabitants of the Great City of Teotihuacan in Mexico Farmed Rabbits

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Humans living in the pre-Hispanic Mexican city of Teotihuacan may have bred rabbits and hares for food, fur and bone tools, according to a study published August 17, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Andrew Somerville from the University of California San Diego, US, and colleagues.

Human-animal relationships often involve herbivore husbandry and have been key in the development of complex human societies across the globe. However, fewer large mammals suitable for husbandry were available in Mesoamerica. The authors of the present study looked for evidence of small animal husbandry in the pre-Hispanic city of Teotihuacan, which existed northeast of what is now Mexico City from A.D. 1-600. The authors performed an analysis of 134 rabbit and hare bone specimens from the ancient city and 13 modern wild specimens from central Mexico to compare their potential diets and ecology.

Aztec carving of a rabbit. Anthropological Museum of Mexico City. ( Elainn / DeviantArt )

Compared to modern wild specimens, the authors found that Teotihuacan rabbit and hare specimens had carbon isotope values indicating higher levels of human-farmed crops, such as maize, in their diet. The specimens with the greatest difference in isotope values came from a Teotihuacan complex that contained traces of animal butchering and a rabbit sculpture.

An illustration of the leporid sculpture from the Oztoyahualco compound of Teotihuacan. Credit: F. Botas; CCAL

While the ancient rabbits and hares included in this study could have consumed at least some farmed crops through raiding of fields or wild plants, the authors suggest their findings indicate that Teotihuacan residents may have provisioned, managed, or bred rabbits and hares for food, fur, and bone tools, which could be new evidence of small mammal husbandry in Mesoamerica.

Pre-Columbian rabbit sculpture. Credit: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection .

"Because no large mammals such as goats, cows, or horses were available for domestication in pre-Hispanic Mexico, many assume that Native Americans did not have as intensive human-animal relationships as did societies of the Old World," said Andrew Somerville. "Our results suggest that citizens of the ancient city of Teotihuacan engaged in relationships with smaller and more diverse fauna, such as rabbits and jackrabbits, and that these may have been just as important as relationships with larger animals."

    Ancient Teotihuacán – Mexico City Pyramids

    The pyramids of Mexico City or actually correct “Pyramids of Teotihuacán” are mysterious ancient ruins located 40 kilometers (25mi) northeast of Mexico City. They count as one of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids built in the pre-Columbian America. The so-called City of the Gods will amaze you with impressive constructions. So, if you are more than two days in the capital, the pyramids of Mexico City should be on your list.

    The complex is held together from the “Avenue of Death”, which could be called a wide, 2.5 mile long sandy street that connects the two main buildings the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun. The mentioned Pyramid of the Sun stands out as the biggest pyramid of all in the archaeological complex. You can climb up all 243 steps and have a great view of the other ancient ruins. During our stay at Teotihuacán we climbed the Pyramid of the Moon, as we wanted to enjoy the view on the huge pyramid beside it, the Avenue of Dead and additionally we were quite lazy due to extreme heat.

    When you climb down the stairs of the Pyramid of the Moon you will see “Quetzalpapalotl” (divine butterfly) to your right, where you can see another great archaeological zone with well-preserved cravings. Have a look and just think of the insane amount of work, people put in this artwork.

    Ancient World History

    Its builders were most likely the former inhabitants of the ancient ceremonial center of Cuicuilco, at Lake Texcoco’s southwest corner, which was destroyed in the eruption of the volcano Xitle around 50 b.c.e. Construction on Teotihuacán began soon after the abandonment of Cuicuilco. The city flourished for the next 600 years, dominating most of the central highlands, before its partial destruction and abandonment around 650 c.e.

    The city’s civic and ceremonial core was built in stages, from its beginnings in the first century b.c.e. to its completion by 300 c.e. Carefully designed in a grid-like pattern, the core was dominated by several towering structures connected by a broad avenue: the massive Pyramid of the Sun the slightly less imposing Pyramid of the Moon the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (Plumed, or Feathered, Serpent) and the large open-air Citadel. Scholars offer varying interpretations of its builders’ intentions regarding its orientation, with the Avenue of the Dead at 15.5 degrees west of south.

    Some argue that it is aligned with solar equinoxes others, with the constellation Pleiades others, with the nearby Cerro Gordo volcano still others have proposed mathematical relationships between the city’s orientation and the sacred 260-day calendar. All agree that its exacting alignment carried deep meaning for its designers and builders.

    Its largest and oldest vertical structure, the massive Pyramid of the Sun, was built over a series of caves (discovered in 1971) whose interior chambers were modified and used extensively during the pyramid’s construction phase (1� c.e.).

    In Mesoamerican mythology caves were linked to the underworld, the dwelling place of the gods, and the origin of creation, suggesting that the pyramid’s location held profound cosmological significance to its designers.

    Estimates of the city’s population range from a low of 80,000, to a high of 200,000. During its first century its population grew rapidly, reaching perhaps 80,000 by 150 c.e., with many thousands of people from the Basin of Mexico migrating to the city.

    Growth slowed in subsequent decades, with the city’s population reaching its height probably around 200 c.e. In the 200s and 300s a series of more than 2,000 apartment or residential compounds were built to house the city’s huge population.

    The sizes and qualities of these compounds varied considerably, suggesting an intricate system of socioeconomic stratification based on wealth, occupation, status, and lineage. Most scholars agree that persons claiming a common lineage inhabited these compounds.

    Different districts or neighborhoods within the city also varied widely. In some areas, specialized craft or artisan workshops predominated. Elsewhere, distinct ethnic enclaves are evident, most notably, a cluster of some dozen compounds evidently inhabited by Oaxacans from Monte Albán.

    A "merchant’s neighborhood" has been identified near the city’s eastern perimeter. Throughout much of the city, however, it is difficult to identify specific qualities that defined its spatial demographics. While the remnants of walls can be found in various parts of the city, there is no evidence that the city as a whole was walled. An estimated two-thirds of the city’s inhabitants worked in agriculture, in the fields surrounding city, with the remainder engaged in various types of craft production.

    The inhabitants of Teotihuacán employed a system of notational signs but had no system of writing comparable to the Maya during this same period. Scholars have identified no grammatical or phonetic elements in the notational system and thus do not know what languages its inhabitants spoke or what they called themselves.

    Some scholars have proposed that its rulers sought to create a secretive, mysterious symbolism others suggest that the signs’ meanings were probably clear to their creators and those who viewed them. The artistic style at Teotihuacán is repetitive, uniform, and somewhat stiff, in sharp contrast to the great variability of styles and motifs among the Maya city-states.

    Religion was practiced in at least two distinct spheres: at the level of the household and village and at the level of the state. Village- and household-level religious practices focused on ancestors and deities linked to specific lineages. There is no evidence that these household- and village-level religious practices were in conflict with the state or that there was any organized or lower-class resistance to the state or ruling groups.

    State religion was very distinct from village-level religion, emphasizing especially the cult of the Feathered Serpent, most graphically expressed in the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, with its hundreds of huge sculpted heads gracing its massive walls and stairs.

    Other major state deities included what is commonly called Tlaloc, the rain god (though interpretations differ on whether this was indeed Tlaloc), the storm/war god, various death and underworld gods, and what E. Pasztory has termed the Great Goddess.

    State religion focused on legitimizing the dominance of ruling groups and providing ideological underpinning for the state and its political, military, and ideological dominion within the Basin of Mexico and beyond. This was a highly stratified and militarized society with both extensive and intensive military capacities.

    The city dominated the Basin of Mexico, though probably not much beyond it, and regardless of the extent of its direct rule, it carried enormous ideological prestige throughout Mesoamerica.

    Perhaps providing a template for the later Aztec military, Teotihuacán’s armies were divided into military orders associated with particular creatures, such as the eagle and jaguar. Its military forces consisted of both commoners and elites that fought in disciplined groups and were highly effective in their use of dart- and spear-throwers (atlatl) and obsidianstudded clubs.

    The city’s impressive military capacities and ideological prestige worked together to facilitate exchange and trade relations with neighboring polities. Trade routes, as far south as Central America and as far north as the present-day U.S. Southwest, linked the city to all of Mesoamerica’s significant polities.

    Long-distance trade was especially active in prestige items, such as shells, ceramics, obsidian, mica, hematite, jade, turquoise, and cinnabar. Marketplaces within the city were especially important, some suggesting that the Great Compound was also the city’s central marketplace, with cacao serving as a form of currency.

    Ritual human sacrifice was practiced at Teotihuacán, though the practice is depicted in the city’s artwork principally through portrayals of human hearts, some impaled on knives. Skeletons of sacrificial victims have been unearthed in the Pyramid of the Sun, the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, and other buildings.

    The decline of the great city was rooted in longterm ecological crises, particularly water shortages, deforestation, and soil degradation, trends exacerbated by a series of invasions or attacks by nomadic or seminomadic peoples from the north. Between 500 and 600 these deleterious ecological processes had become irreversible.

    Around 650 much of the city was destroyed by fire, probably by external assailants, and most of its buildings and compounds were abandoned. The core ceremonial area around the temples saw the greatest destruction, suggesting a conscious effort to incapacitate the city’s ritual and ideological power. By 750 the city was completely abandoned.

    Some six centuries later, upon their arrival into the Basin of Mexico from the northern deserts, the Aztec would look upon the ruins of Teotihuacán as the dwelling place of the gods. Today Teotihuacán remains one of Mexico’s most popular tourist attractions.


    The name Teōtīhuacān was given by the Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs centuries after the fall of the city around 550 CE. The term has been glossed as "birthplace of the gods", or "place where gods were born", [7] reflecting Nahua creation myths that were said to occur in Teotihuacan. Nahuatl scholar Thelma D. Sullivan interprets the name as "place of those who have the road of the gods." [8] This is because the Aztecs believed that the gods created the universe at that site. The name is pronounced [te.oːtiːˈwakaːn] in Nahuatl, with the accent on the syllable wa. By normal Nahuatl orthographic conventions, a written accent would not appear in that position. Both this pronunciation and the Spanish pronunciation [te.otiwaˈkan] are used, and both spellings appear in this article.

    The original name of the city is unknown, but it appears in hieroglyphic texts from the Maya region as puh, or "Place of Reeds". [9] This suggests that, in the Maya civilization of the Classic period, Teotihuacan was understood as a Place of Reeds similar to other Postclassic Central Mexican settlements that took the name of Tollan, such as Tula-Hidalgo and Cholula.

    This naming convention led to much confusion in the early 20th century, as scholars debated whether Teotihuacan or Tula-Hidalgo was the Tollan described by 16th-century chronicles. It now seems clear that Tollan may be understood as a generic Nahua term applied to any large settlement. In the Mesoamerican concept of urbanism, Tollan and other language equivalents serve as a metaphor, linking the bundles of reeds and rushes that formed part of the lacustrine environment of the Valley of Mexico and the large gathering of people in a city. [10]

    As of January 23, 2018 the name "Teotihuacan" has come under scrutiny by experts, who now feel that the site's name may have been changed by Spanish colonizers in the 16th century. Archeologist Veronica Ortega of the National Institute of Anthropology and History states that the city appears to have actually been named "Teohuacan", meaning "City of the Sun" rather than "City of the Gods", as the current name suggests. [11]

    Historical course Edit

    The first human establishment in the area dates back to 600 BC, and until 200 BCE there were scattered small villages on the site of the future city of Teotihuacan. It is estimated that the total population of the Teotihuacan Valley during this time was approximately 6,000 inhabitants. [12] During the period from 100 BC to 750 AD, Teotihuacan had evolved into a huge urban and administrative center with cultural influences throughout the broader Mesoamerica region.

    The history of the city of Teotihuacan is distinguished by four consecutive periods, known as Teotihuacan I, II, III and IV.

    Period I occurred between 200 - 1 BCE and marks the genesis of a real city. During this period, Teotihuacan began to grow into a city as farmers working on the hillside of the Teotihuacan Valley began to move down into the valley, coalescing around the abundant springs of Teotihuacan. [13]

    Period II lasted between 1 AD to 350 AD. During this era Teotihuacan exhibited explosive growth that caused it to be the largest metropolis in Mesoamerica. Factors influencing this growth include the destruction of other settlements due to volcanic eruptions and the economic pull of the expanding city. [13] This influx of new residents caused a reorganization of urban housing to the unique compound complexes that typify Teotihuacan. [13] This period is notable both for its monumental architecture and its monumental sculpture. During this period, the construction of some of the most well known sites of Teotihuacan, the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon, was completed. [14] Further, the shift of political power from the Temple of the Feathered Serpent and its surrounding palace structure to the Street of the Dead Complex occurred in this period sometime between AD 250 and 350. [15] Some authors believe that this represents a shift from centralized, monarchical political system to a more decentralized and bureaucratic organization. [13] [15]

    Period III lasted from the year 350 to 650 AD and is the so-called classical period of Teotihuacan, during which the city reached the apogee of its influence in Mesoamerica. Its population was estimated at 125,000 inhabitants, or more, and the city was among the largest cities of the ancient world, containing 2,000 buildings within an area of 18 square kilometers. [16] It was also during this high period when Teotihuacan contained approximately half all people in the Valley of Mexico, becoming a kind of primate city of Mesoamerica. [16] This period saw a massive reconstruction of monuments the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, which dates back to the previous period, was covered with a rich sculptural decoration. Typical artistic artifacts of this period were funeral masks, crafted mainly from green stone and covered with mosaics of turquoise, shell or obsidian. These masks were highly uniform in nature.

    Period IV describes the time period between 650 and 750 AD. It marks the end of Teotihuacan as a major power in Mesoamerica. The city's elite housing compounds, those clustered around the Street of the Dead, bear many burn marks and archeologists hypothesize that the city experienced civil strife that hastened its decline. [17] Factors that also led to the decline of the city included disruptions in tributary relations, increased social stratification, and power struggles between the ruling and intermediary elites. [13] Following this decline, Teotihuacan continued to be inhabited, though it never reached its previous levels of population.

    Origins and foundation Edit

    The early history of Teotihuacan is quite mysterious and the origin of its founders is uncertain. Around 300 BCE, people of the central and southeastern area of Mesoamerica began to gather into larger settlements. [18] Teotihuacan was the largest urban center of Mesoamerica before the Aztecs, almost 1000 years prior to their epoch. [18] The city was already in ruins by the time of the Aztecs. For many years, archeologists believed it was built by the Toltec. This belief was based on colonial period texts, such as the Florentine Codex, which attributed the site to the Toltecs. However, the Nahuatl word "Toltec" generally means "craftsman of the highest level" and may not always refer to the Toltec civilization centered at Tula, Hidalgo. Since Toltec civilization flourished centuries after Teotihuacan, the people could not have been the city's founders.

    In the Late Formative era, a number of urban centers arose in central Mexico. The most prominent of these appears to have been Cuicuilco, on the southern shore of Lake Texcoco. Scholars have speculated that the eruption of the Xitle volcano may have prompted a mass emigration out of the central valley and into the Teotihuacan valley. These settlers may have founded or accelerated the growth of Teotihuacan. [19]

    Other scholars have put forth the Totonac people as the founders of Teotihuacan and have suggested that Teotihuacan was a multi-ethnic state since they find diverse cultural aspects connected to the Zapotec, Mixtec, and Maya peoples. [20] The builders of Teotihuacan took advantage of the geography in the Basin of Mexico. From the swampy ground, they constructed raised beds, called chinampas, creating high agricultural productivity despite old methods of cultivation. [18] This allowed for the formation of channels, and subsequently canoe traffic, to transport food from farms around the city. The earliest buildings at Teotihuacan date to about 200 BCE. The largest pyramid, the Pyramid of the Sun, was completed by 100 CE. [21]

    Year 378: Conquest of Tikal Edit

    In January 378, while Spearthrower Owl supposedly ruled in Teotihuacan, the warlord Sihyaj K'ahk' conquered Tikal, removing and replacing the Maya king, with support from El Peru and Naachtun, as recorded by Stela 31 at Tikal and other monuments in the Maya region. [22]

    In 378 a group of Teotihuacanos organized a coup d'etat in Tikal, Guatemala. This was not the Teotihuacan state it was a group of the Feathered-Serpent people, thrown out from the city. The Feathered-Serpent Pyramid was burnt, all the sculptures were torn from the temple, and another platform was built to efface the facade . [23]

    Year 426: Conquest of Copán and Quiriguá Edit

    In 426, the Copán ruling dynasty was created with K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo' as the first king. The Dynasty went on to have sixteen rulers. [24] Copán is located in modern-day Honduras, as described by Copán Altar Q. [25] Soon thereafter, Yax K'uk' Mo' installed Tok Casper as king of Quiriguá, about 50 km north of Copán.

    Zenith Edit

    The city reached its peak in 450 CE, when it was the center of a powerful culture whose influence extended through much of the Mesoamerican region. At its peak, the city covered over 30 km 2 (over 11 + 1 ⁄ 2 square miles), and perhaps housed a population of 150,000 people, with one estimate reaching as high as 250,000. [26] Various districts in the city housed people from across the Teotihuacano region of influence, which spread south as far as Guatemala. Notably absent from the city are fortifications and military structures.

    The nature of political and cultural interactions between Teotihuacan and the centers of the Maya region (as well as elsewhere in Mesoamerica) has been a long-standing and significant area for debate. Substantial exchange and interaction occurred over the centuries from the Terminal Preclassic to the Mid-Classic period. "Teotihuacan-inspired ideologies" and motifs persisted at Maya centers into the Late Classic, long after Teotihuacan itself had declined. [27] However, scholars debate the extent and degree of Teotihuacano influence. Some believe that it had direct and militaristic dominance others that adoption of "foreign" traits was part of a selective, conscious, and bi-directional cultural diffusion. New discoveries have suggested that Teotihuacan was not much different in its interactions with other centers from the later empires, such as the Toltec and Aztec. [28] [29] It is believed that Teotihuacan had a major influence on the Preclassic and Classic Maya.

    Architectural styles prominent at Teotihuacan are found widely dispersed at a number of distant Mesoamerican sites, which some researchers have interpreted as evidence for Teotihuacan's far-reaching interactions and political or militaristic dominance. [30] A style particularly associated with Teotihuacan is known as talud-tablero, in which an inwards-sloping external side of a structure (talud) is surmounted by a rectangular panel (tablero). Variants of the generic style are found in a number of Maya region sites, including Tikal, Kaminaljuyu, Copan, Becan, and Oxkintok, and particularly in the Petén Basin and the central Guatemalan highlands. [31] The talud-tablero style pre-dates its earliest appearance at Teotihuacan in the Early Classic period it appears to have originated in the Tlaxcala-Puebla region during the Preclassic. [32] Analyses have traced the development into local variants of the talud-tablero style at sites such as Tikal, where its use precedes the 5th-century appearance of iconographic motifs shared with Teotihuacan. The talud-tablero style disseminated through Mesoamerica generally from the end of the Preclassic period, and not specifically, or solely, via Teotihuacano influence. It is unclear how or from where the style spread into the Maya region. During the zenith main structures of the site, including the pyramids, were painted in dark-red (maroon to Burgundy) colors (only small spots remain now) and were a very impressive sight. [33]

    The city was a center of industry, home to many potters, jewelers, and craftsmen. Teotihuacan is known for producing a great number of obsidian artifacts. No ancient Teotihuacano non-ideographic texts are known to exist (or known to have existed). Inscriptions from Maya cities show that Teotihuacan nobility traveled to, and perhaps conquered, local rulers as far away as Honduras. Maya inscriptions note an individual nicknamed by scholars as "Spearthrower Owl", apparently ruler of Teotihuacan, who reigned for over 60 years and installed his relatives as rulers of Tikal and Uaxactun in Guatemala. [ citation needed ]

    Scholars have based interpretations about the culture at Teotihuacan on archeology, the murals that adorn the site (and others, like the Wagner Murals, found in private collections), and hieroglyphic inscriptions made by the Maya describing their encounters with Teotihuacano conquerors. The creation of murals, perhaps tens of thousands of murals, reached its height between 450 and 650. The artistry of the painters was unrivaled in Mesoamerica and has been compared with that of painters in Renaissance Florence, Italy. [34]

    Collapse Edit

    Scholars had originally thought that invaders attacked the city in the 7th or 8th century, sacking and burning it. More recent evidence, however, seems to indicate that the burning was limited to the structures and dwellings associated primarily with the ruling class. [35] Some think this suggests that the burning was from an internal uprising. They say the invasion theory is flawed, because early archeological work on the city was focused exclusively on the palaces and temples, places used by the upper classes. Because all of these sites showed burning, archeologists concluded that the whole city was burned. Instead, it is now known that the destruction was centered on major civic structures along the Avenue of the Dead. The sculptures inside palatial structures, such as Xalla, were shattered. [36] No traces of foreign invasion are visible at the site. [35]

    Evidence for population decline beginning around the 6th century lends some support to the internal unrest hypothesis. The decline of Teotihuacan has been correlated to lengthy droughts related to the climate changes of 535–536. This theory of ecological decline is supported by archeological remains that show a rise in the percentage of juvenile skeletons with evidence of malnutrition during the 6th century, which is why there is different evidence that helps indicate that famine is most likely one of the more possible reasons for the decline of Teotihuacan. The majority of their food came from agriculture: They grew things such as maize, beans, amaranth, green tomatoes (tomatillos?), and pumpkins, but their harvest was not nearly sufficient to feed a population as big as it is believed have lived in Teotihuacan. [37] This finding does not conflict with either of the above theories, since both increased warfare and internal unrest can also be effects of a general period of drought and famine. [38] Other nearby centers, such as Cholula, Xochicalco, and Cacaxtla, competed to fill the power void left by Teotihuacan's decline. They may have aligned themselves against Teotihuacan to reduce its influence and power. The art and architecture at these sites emulate Teotihuacan forms, but also demonstrate an eclectic mix of motifs and iconography from other parts of Mesoamerica, particularly the Maya region. [ citation needed ]

    The sudden destruction of Teotihuacan was common for Mesoamerican city-states of the Classic and Epi-Classic period. Many Maya states suffered similar fates in the coming centuries, a series of events often referred to as the Classic Maya collapse. Nearby, in the Morelos valley, Xochicalco was sacked and burned in 900 and Tula met a similar fate around 1150. [39]

    There is a theory [40] that the collapse of Teotihuacan was caused by the devastation of its agriculture by the 535 CE eruption of the Ilopango volcano in El Salvador.

    Aztec Period Edit

    During the 1200s CE, Nahua migrants repopulated the area. By the 1300s, it had fallen under the sway of Huexotla, and in 1409 was assigned its own tlatoani, Huetzin, a son of the tlatoani of Huexotla. But his reign was cut short when Tezozomoc, tlatoani of Azcapotzalco, invaded Huexotla and the neighboring Acolhua lands in 1418. Huetzin was deposed by the invaders and Tezozomoc installed a man named Totomochtzin. Less than a decade later, in 1427, the Aztec Empire formed and Teotihuacan was vassalized once more by the Acolhua. [41]

    Archeological evidence suggests that Teotihuacan was a multi-ethnic city, and while the official languages used by Teotihuacan is unknown, Totonac and Nahua, early forms of which were spoken by the Aztecs, seem to be highly plausible. [42] This apparent regionally diverse population of Teotihuacan can be traced back to a natural disaster that occurred prior to its population boom. At one point in time, Teotihuacan was rivaled by another basin power, Cuicuilco. [42] Both cities, roughly the same size and hubs for trade, both were productive centers of artisans and commerce. [42] Roughly around 100 BC however, the power dynamic changed when Mount Xitle, an active volcano, erupted, and heavily impacted Cuicuilco and the farmland that supported it. It is believed that the later exponential growth of Teotihuacan's population was due to the subsequent migration of those displaced by the eruption. [42] While this eruption is referenced as being the primary cause for the mass exodus, recent advancements of dating have shed light on an even earlier eruption. [43] The eruption of Popocatepetl in the middle of the first century preceded that of Xitle, and is believed to have begun the aforementioned degradation of agricultural lands, and structural damage to the city Xitle's eruption further instigated the abandonment of Cuicuilco. [43]

    In the Tzacualli phase (c. 1–150 CE) , Teotihuacan saw a population growth of around 60 to 80 thousand people, most of which are believed to have come from the Mexican basin. [44] Following this growth however the influx of new residence slowed, and evidence suggests that, by the Miccaotli phase, c. 200 CE. The urban population had reached its maximum. [44]

    In 2001, Terrence Kaufman presented linguistic evidence suggesting that an important ethnic group in Teotihuacan was of Totonacan or Mixe–Zoquean linguistic affiliation. [45] He uses this to explain general influences from Totonacan and Mixe–Zoquean languages in many other Mesoamerican languages, whose people did not have any known history of contact with either of the above-mentioned groups. Other scholars maintain that the largest population group must have been of Otomi ethnicity because the Otomi language is known to have been spoken in the area around Teotihuacan both before and after the Classic period and not during the middle period. [46]

    Teotihuacan compounds show evidence of being segregated by class, of which three social strata could be distinguished. [47] High elites, intermediate elites, and the laboring class's dwelling spaces differ in ways that are supportive of these class divisions. [47] Residential architectural structures seem to be differentiable by the artistry and complexity of the structure itself. [47] Based on the quality of construction materials and sizes of rooms as well as the quality of assorted objects found in the residency, these dwellings might have been lived in by higher status households. [47] Teotihuacan dwellings that archeologists deemed of higher standard appear to radiate outwards from the Central district and along the Boulevard of the Dead, although there doesn't appear to be neat zonation into highly homogeneous districts. [47]

    The laboring classes, which in and of itself was divided, was constituted from farmers and skilled craftsmen to the outer rural population of the city. [48] The inner situated craftspeople of various specialties were housed in complexes of apartments, distributed throughout. [48] These encampments, known as neighborhood centers, show evidence of providing the internal economic backbone for Teotihuacan. Established by the elite to showcase the sumptuary goods that the resident craftsmen provided, the diversity in goods was aided by the heavy concentration of immigrated individuals from different regions of Mesoamerica. [48] Along with archeological evidence pointing to one of the primary traded items being textiles, craftspeople capitalized on their mastery of painting, building, the performance of music and military training. [48] These neighborhood communities closely resembled individual compounds, often surrounded by physical barriers separating them from the others. In this way, Teotihuacan developed an internal economic competition that fueled productivity and helped create a social structure of its own that differed from the internal, central structure. [48] Aforementioned craftspeople specialized in performing typical actions which in turn left physical evidence in the form of bone abrasions. [48] Based on the wear of teeth archeologists were able to determine that some bodies worked with fibers with their frontal teeth, insinuating that they were involved with making nets, like those depicted in mural art. [48] Women's skeletons provided evidence that they might have sewn or painted for long periods of time, indicative of the headdresses that were created as well as pottery which was fired and painted. Wear on specific joints indicate the carrying of heavy objects over an extended period of their lives. Evidence of these heavy materials is found in the copious amounts of imported pottery, and raw materials found on site, such as rhyolitic glass shards, marble and slate. [48] The residences of the rural population of the city were in enclaves between the middle-class residences or the periphery of the city while smaller encampments filled with earthenware from other regions, also suggest that merchants were situated in their own encampments as well. [47]

    Religion Edit

    In An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya, Miller and Taube list eight deities: [49]

    • The Storm God [50]
    • The Great Goddess
    • The Feathered Serpent. [51] An important deity in Teotihuacan most closely associated with the Feathered Serpent Pyramid (Temple of the Feathered Serpent).
    • The Old God
    • The War Serpent. Taube has differentiated two different serpent deities whose depictions alternate on the Feathered Serpent Pyramid: the Feathered Serpent and what he calls the "War Serpent". Other researchers are more skeptical. [52]
    • The Netted Jaguar
    • The Pulque God
    • The Fat God. Known primarily from figurines and so assumed to be related to household rituals. [53]

    Esther Pasztory adds one more: [54]

    • The Flayed God. Known primarily from figurines and so assumed to be related to household rituals. [53]

    The consensus among scholars is that the primary deity of Teotihuacan was the Great Goddess of Teotihuacan. [55] The dominant civic architecture is the pyramid. Politics were based on the state religion religious leaders were the political leaders. [56] Religious leaders would commission artists to create religious artworks for ceremonies and rituals. The artwork likely commissioned would have been a mural or a censer depicting gods like the Great Goddess of Teotihuacan or the Feathered Serpent. Censers would be lit during religious rituals to invoke the gods including rituals with human sacrifice. [57]

    Teotihuacanos practiced human sacrifice: human bodies and animal sacrifices have been found during excavations of the pyramids at Teotihuacan. Scholars believe that the people offered human sacrifices as part of a dedication when buildings were expanded or constructed. The victims were probably enemy warriors captured in battle and brought to the city for ritual sacrifice to ensure the city could prosper. [58] Some men were decapitated, some had their hearts removed, others were killed by being hit several times over the head, and some were buried alive. Animals that were considered sacred and represented mythical powers and military were also buried alive, imprisoned in cages: cougars, a wolf, eagles, a falcon, an owl, and even venomous snakes. [59]

    Numerous stone masks have been found at Teotihuacan, and have been generally believed to have been used during a funerary context, [60] although some scholars call this into question, noting that masks "do not seem to have come from burials". [61]

    Population Edit

    Teotihuacan was one of, or was, the largest population in the Basin of Mexico during its occupation. Teotihuacan was a large pre-historic city that underwent massive population growth and sustained it over most of the city's occupancy. In the 100 AD the population could be estimated around 60,000-80,000, after 200 years of the city's occupancy, within 20 km 2 of the city. The population, eventually, stabilized around 100,000 people around 300 AD. [62]

    The population reached its peak numbers around 400 to 500 AD. During 400 to 500 AD, the Xolalpan period, the city’s population was estimated to be 100,000 to 200,000 people. This number was achieved by estimating compound sizes to hold approximately 60 to 100, with 2,000 compounds. [62] These high numbers continued until the city started to decline between 600 and 700 AD. [2]

    One of Teotihuacan’s neighborhood, Teopancazco, was occupied during most of the time Teotihuacan was as well. It showed that Teotihuacan was a multiethnic city that was broken up into areas of different ethnicities and workers. This neighborhood was important in two ways the high infant mortality rate and role of the different ethnicities. The high infant mortality rate was important within the neighborhood, and the city at large, as there are a large number of perinatal skeletons at Teopancazco. This suggests that the population of Teotihuacan was sustained and grew due to people coming into the city, rather than the population reproducing. The influx of people came from surrounding areas, bringing different ethnicities to the city. [63]

    Writing and literature Edit

    Recently [ timeframe? ] there was a big find in the La Ventilla district that contains over 30 signs and clusters on the floor of the patio. [64] Much of the findings in Teotihuacan suggest that the inhabitants had their own writing style. The figures were made "quickly and show control" giving the idea that they were practiced and were adequate for the needs of their society. [65] Other societies around Teotihuacan adopted some of the symbols that were used there. The inhabitants there rarely used any other societies' symbols and art. [66] These writing systems weren't anything like those of their neighbors, but the same writings show that they must have been aware of the other writings. [67]

    Obsidian laboratories Edit

    The processing of obsidian was the most developed art and the main source of wealth in Teotihuacan. The employees of obsidian laboratories amounted to at least 12% of the total population, according to reliable assessments of archeologists and the multitude of archeological findings. The laboratories produced tools or objects of obsidian of various types, intended for commercial transactions beyond the geographical boundaries of the city, such as figurines, blades, spikes, knife handles, jewelry or ornaments etc. About 25% of the activity of the obsidian laboratories was devoted to the production of blades and deburring for external markets. A specific type of obsidian blades, with a razor-sharp edge, was a ritual tool for use in human sacrifices, with which the priests removed the heart from the victims of the sacrifice. Obsidian came mainly from the mines of Pachuca (Teotihuacan) and its processing was the most important industry in the city, which had acquired the monopoly in the trade of obsidian in the broader Middle American region.

    Knowledge of the huge ruins of Teotihuacan was never completely lost. After the fall of the city, various squatters lived on the site. During Aztec times, the city was a place of pilgrimage and identified with the myth of Tollan, the place where the sun was created. Today, Teotihuacan is one of the most noted archeological attractions in Mexico. [ citation needed ]

    Excavations and investigations Edit

    In the late 17th century Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora (1645–1700) made some excavations around the Pyramid of the Sun. [68] Minor archeological excavations were conducted in the 19th century. In 1905 Mexican archeologist and government official, in the regime of Porfirio Díaz, Leopoldo Batres [69] led a major project of excavation and restoration. The Pyramid of the Sun was restored to celebrate the centennial of the Mexican War of Independence in 1910. The site of Teotihuacan was the first to be expropriated for the national patrimony under the Law of Monuments (1897), giving jurisdiction under legislation for the Mexican state to take control. Some 250 plots were farmed on the site. Peasants who had been farming portions were ordered to leave and the Mexican government eventually paid some compensation to those individuals. [70] A feeder train line was built to the site in 1908, which allowed the efficient hauling of material from the excavations and later to bring tourists to the site. [71] In 1910, the International Congress of Americanists met in Mexico, coinciding with the centennial celebrations, and the distinguished delegates, such as its president Eduard Seler and vice president Franz Boas were taken to the newly finished excavations. [72]

    Further excavations at the Ciudadela were carried out in the 1920s, supervised by Manuel Gamio. Other sections of the site were excavated in the 1940s and 1950s. The first site-wide project of restoration and excavation was carried out by INAH from 1960 to 1965, supervised by Jorge Acosta. This undertaking had the goals of clearing the Avenue of the Dead, consolidating the structures facing it, and excavating the Palace of Quetzalpapalotl. [73]

    Sacred Tunnel Beneath Teotihuacan Explored

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    Two of the sculptures unearthed by investigators at the Teotihuacan archeological site in Mexico. Mexican archaeologists have concluded a yearslong exploration of a tunnel sealed nearly 2,000 years ago at the ancient city of Teotihuacan and found 50,000 relics.

    A tunnel, sealed approximately 1,800 years ago was excavated, archaeologists discovered seeds, pottery, sculptures, jewelry, shells, and animal bones. The walls had been covered with a powder made from ground metallic minerals that, when lit by a torch, created a glittering effect reminiscent of the night sky. According to project director Sergio Gomez of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, this is one of the most sacred places in all Teotihuacan, archaeologists believe that it could have been used for the rulers to acquire divine endowment allowing them to rule on the surface.

    We’ve been able to confirm all of the hypotheses we’ve made from the beginning,’ he added, saying ongoing excavations could yield more major discoveries next year.

    Teotihuacan, established around 100 B.C., and lasting until its fall between the seventh and eighth centuries, was one of the largest cities in the ancient world, with over 150,000 inhabitants at its peak.According to archaeologists the advanced design of Teotihuacan suggests that ancient builders had knowledge, not only of architecture, but of complex mathematical and astronomical sciences, and one of the things that is just incredibly amazing and different from all other ancient sites is the fact that from the air, Teotihuacan‘s city layout strangely resembles a computer circuit board with two large processor chips– the Sun Pyramid and the Moon Pyramid. Researchers have also found numerous and remarkable similarities to the Great Pyramids of Egypt.

    Teotihuacan is very unique and is unlike any other pre-Columbian ruin in Mexico, archaeologists have never found any remains believed to belong to Teotihuacan’s rulers. Such a discovery could help shine light on the leadership structure of the city, including whether rule was hereditary. Initial studies by the National Institute of Anthropology and History show the tunnel functioned until around A.D. 250, when it was closed off. Teotihuacan is one of Mexico’s most visited sites. The city had long been abandoned by the time the Aztecs came to power in the Valley of Mexico in the 14th century, yet it continued to play an important role as a destination for religious pilgrimages.

    No depiction of a ruler, or the tomb of a monarch, has ever been found, setting the metropolis apart from other pre-Hispanic cultures that deified their rulers.

    This year long excavation process has contibuted much to the history of Teotihuacan. Archaeologists have found thousands of relics and three chambers that could hold more important discoveries.

    A zoomorphic vessel found at the Temple of the Feathered Serpent (Serpiente Emplumada) at the Teotihuacan complex in Mexico City Sergio Gomez’s team has spent years carefully excavating the site and will need another year to see inside the chambers at the end of the tunnel. Source: AFP

    The Russian colonization of the Americas covers the period from 1732 to 1867, when the Russian Empire laid claim to northern Pacific Coast territories in the Americas. Russian colonial possessions in the Americas are collectively known as Russian America. Russian expansion eastward began in 1552, and in 1639 Russian explorers reached the Pacific Ocean. In 1725, Emperor Peter the Great ordered navigator Vitus Bering to explore the North Pacific for potential colonization. The Russians were primarily interested in the abundance of fur-bearing mammals on Alaska's coast, as stocks had been depleted by over hunting in Siberia. Bering's first voyage was foiled by thick fog and ice, but in 1741 a second voyage by Bering and Aleksei Chirikov made sight of the North American mainland.

    Russian promyshlenniki (trappers and hunters) quickly developed the maritime fur trade, which instigated several conflicts between the Aleuts and Russians in the 1760s. The fur trade proved to be a lucrative enterprise, capturing the attention of other European nations. In response to potential competitors, the Russians extended their claims eastward from the Commander Islands to the shores of Alaska. In 1784, with encouragement from Empress Catherine the Great, explorer Grigory Shelekhov founded Russia's first permanent settlement in Alaska at Three Saints Bay. Ten years later, the first group of Orthodox Christian missionaries began to arrive, evangelizing thousands of Native Americans, many of whose descendants continue to maintain the religion. [1] By the late 1780s, trade relations had opened with the Tlingits, and in 1799 the Russian-American Company (RAC) was formed in order to monopolize the fur trade, also serving as an imperialist vehicle for the Russification of Alaska Natives.

    Angered by encroachment on their land and other grievances, the indigenous peoples' relations with the Russians deteriorated. In 1802, Tlingit warriors destroyed several Russian settlements, most notably Redoubt Saint Michael (Old Sitka), leaving New Russia as the only remaining outpost on mainland Alaska. This failed to expel the Russians, who reestablished their presence two years later following the Battle of Sitka. (Peace negotiations between the Russians and Native Americans would later establish a modus vivendi, a situation that, with few interruptions, lasted for the duration of Russian presence in Alaska.) In 1808, Redoubt Saint Michael was rebuilt as New Archangel and became the capital of Russian America after the previous colonial headquarters were moved from Kodiak. A year later, the RAC began expanding its operations to more abundant sea otter grounds in Northern California, where Fort Ross was built in 1812.

    By the middle of the 19th century, profits from Russia's American colonies were in steep decline. Competition with the British Hudson's Bay Company had brought the sea otter to near extinction, while the population of bears, wolves, and foxes on land was also nearing depletion. Faced with the reality of periodic Native American revolts, the political ramifications of the Crimean War, and unable to fully colonize the Americas to their satisfaction, the Russians concluded that their American colonies were too expensive to retain. Eager to release themselves of the burden, the Russians sold Fort Ross in 1842, and in 1867, after less than a month of negotiations, the United States accepted Emperor Alexander II's offer to sell Alaska. The purchase of Alaska for $7.2 million ended Imperial Russia's colonial presence in the Americas.


    Mexico’s most impressive archaeological site was once a flourishing pre-Columbian city with gigantic pyramids but, its origin, history and culture is largely a mystery.

    Teotihuacán, is an ancient Mesoamerican city, located 50 km northeast of Mexico City. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, the ruins of Teotihuacán are now one of Mexico’s biggest attractions.

    The middle of the main path of Teotihuacán is the ‘Avenue of the Dead’ which links The Temple of the Feathered Serpent – the religious and political centre, the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun, and also The Museum of Teotihuacan Culture with artifacts.

    The origin of Teotihuacán is still a mystery. But it was settled as early as 400 B.C. and between A.D. 150 and 300, the city grew rapidly. By A.D. 400, Teotihuacán had become the most powerful and influential city in the region with over 150,000 inhabitants. It was a polytheistic society, and its primary deity was the Great Goddess of Teotihuacan, a spider goddess. In A.D. 750, Teotihuacán was abandoned, with monuments, treasures and artifacts.

    One of the greatest mysteries of Teotihuacán is what happened to the huge population that lived here. But, by the time the Aztecs arrived in the 1400’s, and named it, Teotihuacán (‘place where gods were born’), the city had been abandoned. However, the Aztecs, saw the magnificent ruins and claimed a common ancestry with the Teotihuacanos, modifying and adopting aspects of their culture.

    In 2003, an unknown tunnel near the Temple of the Feathered Serpent was discovered. Inside were: engraved conch shells, greenstone statues, worked stone, bones of animals and humans and clay spheres coated with yellow mineral – over 50,000 pieces in all.

    Trade relations with neighboring polities

    The city’s impressive military capacities and ideological prestige worked together to facilitate exchange and trade relations with neighboring polities. Trade routes, as far south as Central America and as far north as the present- day U.S. Southwest, linked the city to all of Mesoamerica’s significant polities. Long-distance trade was especially active in prestige items, such as shells, ceramics, obsidian, mica, hematite, jade, turquoise, and cinnabar. Marketplaces within the city were especially important, some suggesting that the Great Compound was also the city’s central marketplace, with cacao serving as a form of currency. Ritual human sacrifice was practiced at Teotihuacán, though the practice is depicted in the city’s artwork principally through portrayals of human hearts, some impaled on knives. Skeletons of sacrificial victims have been unearthed in the Pyramid of the Sun, the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, and other buildings.

    History of Teotihuacan

    Teotihuacan reached its zenith around the year 400AD: it sprawled over 30 square kilometres and housed around 150,000 people, making it roughly the 6th largest city in the world at the time. The city’s relatively sudden collapse remains something of a mystery to historians and archaeologists – some believe it was sacked and burned by neighbouring rival city states, whilst others have correlated the city’s decline with major droughts and climate change at that time.

    Whilst today the buildings around the Calzada de los Muertos (Avenue of the Dead) are grey, they would once have been painted with bright ceremonial murals. The road still forms the heart of the complex today: over 40m wide, most of the 4km site is centred around it.

    Literally translated as the place “where gods are created”, Teotihuacan was clearly a city of significant religious importance to its inhabitants, as illustrated by the wealth of monuments at the site. Characterised by looming stepped pyramids, indeed one of the most impressive aspects of Teotihuacan is the sheer size of these monuments.

    San Diego Scientist Discovers Ancient Mexicans May Have Raised Rabbits

    Above: This undated illustration depicts the rabbit sculpture found outside a Teotihuacan apartment complex.

    When you think of ancient Mexico, you probably picture huge pyramids and colossal sculptures. A new study suggests you should also picture people tending to rabbits, hinting at an economy more complex than previously thought.

    When you think of ancient Mexico, you probably picture huge pyramids, colossal sculptures and complex calendars carved in stone. A new study published Wednesday suggests you should also picture people tending to rabbits.

    Unlike ancient Europeans, pre-Hispanic civilizations didn't have access to large animals like cows or sheep. But they may have kept rabbits, according to new evidence unearthed at the ancient city of Teotihuacan.

    "They were breeding rabbits as a form of specialized labor," said UC San Diego's Andrew Somerville, who led the team of anthropologists that made the discovery.

    "It seemed to be that there were centers of food production in the city," Somerville said. "Which is a pretty interesting discovery, because it tells us something about how the economy of the city was organized."

    Teotihuacan was a massive city near present-day Mexico City active from roughly AD 1 to 550. Somerville and his colleagues focused on a large concentration of rabbit bones found in rooms within one apartment complex. This facility has also shown signs of butchering, and it featured a rabbit sculpture in the public courtyard.

    Photo credit: Andrew Somerville

    This undated photo shows Teotihuacan's massive "Moon Pyramid."

    The researchers analyzed carbon isotopes in the rabbit bones, which were over 1,400 years old. They found chemical signatures in the bones revealing that these rabbits ate a diet unusually high in farmed crops like corn and cactus, suggesting they were fed by people.

    "Those are chemically very distinct from almost all the other food in the landscape," Somerville said. "So it shows up very visibly in the bones. We could calculate fairly accurately how much human foods these rabbits were eating."

    The rabbits may have been bred for their meat, fur and bones, which would have been useful for fashioning tools. Somerville thinks the animals were likely brought into those apartments to be slaughtered. He said these signs of centralized rabbit processing point toward an economy that may have been more complex than previously thought.

    "Once you have families that aren't responsible for making their own food anymore, that's a whole different level of complexity," Somerville said.

    "The research is very sound," said Dartmouth College anthropology professor Deborah Nichols, an expert on pre-Hispanic civilizations who was not involved in the study. "Finding that rabbits were being raised and fed reveals a previously unknown form of urban animal husbandry."

    Nichols wrote in an email, "Understanding the nature of Teotihuacan's food supply is important to understand the development of this ancient city that became the most influential center in Mexico and Central America."

    Protein consumption in the pre-Hispanic Mexican diet has been the subject of some debate, Somerville said. Earlier scholars have even gone so far as to claim these civilizations practiced cannibalism due to a lack of animal protein.

    "One implication of this rabbit study is that they were able to acquire enough protein," Somerville said. "This economic specialization was a way of adapting to this somewhat marginal environment they were living in."


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