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Teotihuacan's Emblematic Monument, The Sun Pyramid, Still an Enigma for Archaeologists
The sun pyramid is the most important building of Teotihuacan. Photo: INAH/M. Marat.

MEXICO CITY.- Although research conducted at Teotihuacan Archaeological Zone has allowed determining several of its urban features, the construction of its most emblematic monument, the Sun Pyramid, still presents enigmas, like the real significance it had for dwellers, since no historical sources exist.

M.A. Ruben Cabrera Castro, researcher at the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), tried to elucidate the sense this 65-meter building had for ancient Teotihuacan dwellers. Although information has been provided by material rests found, it is difficult to be certain about Prehispanic thought.

At the conference series at the Center of Teotihuacan Studies, part of commemorations of the centennial of the opening of the archaeological site, Cabrera recalled that recently archaeologist Jaime Delgado conducted a survey among dwellers of the Valley of Teotihuacan and urban communities near Mexico City, workers and specialists at the archaeological site: What does the Sun Pyramid Means to You?

General population manifested that it is the most important building of Teotihuacan, a monument dedicated to the Sun, a center of energy, the main attraction of Teotihuacan, something majestic, a manifestation of despotic power, a ceremonial center, a tomb, a national symbol, an enigma…for archaeologists it is the central nucleus of Teotihuacan urban system too.

Still, its original meaning is a mystery, “mainly because in Teotihuacan we don’t have well-analyzed writing; glyphs were recently found at La Ventilla neighborhood, but they are being analyzed”, mentioned Ruben Cabrera.

According to the archaeologist, “this building is for many researchers a “water mountain” or altepetl: it is known that pyramids are replicas of hills, which were conceived as water providers.

“This allows us thinking that the Sun Pyramid is related to strength, fertility, water and the underworld, from where life comes from and where humans go after death, and maybe important characters, from the point of view of Teotihuacan people”.

The tunnel constructed under this pyramid could be related to Chicomostoc, original place of the Nahua tribes that arrived to Central Mexico. “There are elements as the 4 niches found to the bottom of the cave that coincide with the 4 petal flower, symbol of Teotihuacan, which resembles the representation of cavities deeply-rooted in Tolteca-Chichimeca history”.

The subterranean tunnel is linked with the underworld and the 4 cardinal points. “We can say that everything in Teotihuacan, even its planning, repeats the quincunx (symbol that points out the directions of the universe), an idea, older than Teotihuacan groups, that goes back to Olmecas”.

In such space were found human rests, as well as Tolteca and Mexica material, groups that apparently looted the place in later ages after the abandonment of the city. It is very probable that a water spring was found in the tunnel.
The Sun Pyramid was a space of power, as the discovery of fragmented sculptures of jaguars and serpents located near it verifies, figures that probably adorned its adjacent platforms.

INAH archaeologist Alejandro Villalobos manifested that the width of the Moon Pyramid plant corresponds with the 126-meters diameter of Cuicuilco great base, which is important because it is thought that people from Cuicuilco migrated to Teotihuacan after an eruption of Xitle Vulcano near 100 AD.

As in the archaeological site located in southern Mexico City, Teotihuacan pyramids are linked to the surrounding landscape, imitating the hills.

Regarding the constructive system of the Sun Pyramid, the architect concluded that different hypotheses point out that its internal nucleus is integrated by masonry systems yet to be explored and which could have an octagonal or random sequence.

How long did it take to build the Sun Pyramid?

• It was in 1986 when the first calculations on this regard were estimated.

• It is considered that it was built by 12,000 to 14,000 persons working simultaneously, by specialized groups in each of the tasks such as loaders, water-bearers, stonemasons, quarrymen and builders.

• Working 10 hours a day, seven days a week.

• Adding up 139 years of work conducted in normal conditions.

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