Lecture 4. Teotihuacan: Facts and Mysteries of an Early American Metropolis (200 BC – AD 650)

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Carolyn Tate

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Shaping Place in Mesoamerica

Around 100 BC, still early in Mesoamerica’s history, people in the highland Basin of Mexico began to build the largest urban center in the Americas, called Teotihuacan. Not only did it eventually have a population of over 130,000, but it became a cosmopolitan center with enclaves of people from other cultural regions. Many residents lived in comfortable apartment compounds decorated with mural paintings. However, none of this explains why the scale of the city’s central core of pyramids and platforms was so vast. Other mysteries remain despite decades of excavation and study. We are not sure how the city was governed or why there are no clear-cut portraits of rulers or other leaders among the city’s paintings or stone sculptures. Teotihuacán exerted its influence through trade and military incursion over much of Mesoamerica, including the Maya area, in the Early Classic. They definitely knew that the Maya had developed an effective writing system. So why did Teotihuacan people eschew phonetic writing? Despite these and other unsolved questions, the monumental pyramids still stand as testimony of the city’s greatness and power. Units: 1. Introduction to Valley of Mexico geography and scale of site 2. Sun Pyramid 3. Moon Pyramid 4. Palace of Quetzalpapalotl 5. Ciudadela and Pyramid of Feathered Serpent 6. Painted Apartment Compounds 7. Teotihuacan measuring Unit (TMU) and how the calendar was embedded in site plan

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