The Pyramid Of The Sun Is Still Revealing Its Ancient Secrets
A unique serpentine mask is one of the more recent discoveries at Mexico's Pyramid of the Sun. (news-intel.com)
The Pyramid of the Sun, located in the ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacan, is thousands of years old, yet it is still giving up some of its secrets. Archaeological work done at the site of both the Pyramid of the Sun and the nearby Pyramid of the Moon since 2000 has yielded some interesting finds, including a green stone mark, that have only deepened the mystery surrounding the ancient Mesoamerican pyramid builders.
Teotihuacan was abandoned by the time the Aztecs and Mayans ruled Mexico. (universes.art)
In its heyday, between 100 and 650 CE, the city of Teotihuacan, located about a half-hour's drive from Mexico City, was the largest city in the western hemisphere. The city itself was spread over about 8 square miles and could accommodate a population of about 100,000 residents. Teotihuacan was not a fortress city; there were no walls or gates. Instead, there were temples, suggesting that the city was a center for religion and culture.
The Pyramid of the Sun at the ancient archaeological site of Teotihuacan in Mexico. The site dates back to around 200 BCE. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)
The Pyramid Of The Sun
The largest and most impressive of the ancient structures in Teotihuacan is the 216-ft. Pyramid of the Sun. The pyramid, which was built around 100 CE, is located along the Avenue of the Dead, the ancient city's main thoroughfare. Constructed of red volcanic rock, the pyramid is evidence that the ancient people of Mesoamerica were skilled engineers and builders. The purpose of the Pyramid of the Sun is not known, though archaeologists speculate that it was once a religious site.
Secret tunnels, chambers, and even the headless bodies of sacrifice victims have been found beneath the Pyramid of the Moon. (ancient-origins.net)
The Pyramid Of The Moon
Second in size to the Pyramid of the Sun is Teotihuacan's Pyramid of the Moon. Constructed between 100 and 250 CE, the Pyramid of the Moon transformed the site into a balanced, dual-temple complex. Archaeologists believe that the Pyramid of the Moon was the site of human and animal ritualistic sacrifices.
The culture that built Teotihuacan was full of artists, engineers, and accomplished builders. (ancientpages.com)
Who Were The Ancient Pyramid Builders?
The short answer to this question is "We don't know." For a long time, it was assumed that the Toltec constructed the pyramids, but it has since been learned that Toltec culture was at its zenith long after Teotihuacan was built. We do know that the ancient Mayans were awestruck when they stumbled upon the abandoned city, and they weren't the only ones. The names "Pyramid of the Sun" and "Pyramid of the Moon" were actually given to the structures by ancient Aztecs, who also visited the site long after it was abandoned.
Excavations of the tunnels beneath the Pyramid of the Sun have yielded new discoveries. (nbcnews.com)
For such an ancient site—and one that has been studied and excavated for well over 100 years—little is known about the pyramids of Teotihuacan, and more is being discovered all the time. In 2003, for example, archaeologists found a series of tunnels and shafts beneath the Pyramid of the Sun. Through years of painstaking excavation, the archaeologists have reached the end of one of the tunnels at the center of the structure and hope to discover a tomb or chamber beyond the end wall.
Evidence of human sacrifice at the Pyramid of the Moon. (themaritimeexplorer.ca)
In 2004, digging at the Pyramid of the Moon unearthed a large quantity of human and animal bones. The human remains were all headless, leading to the assumption that they were ritualistically beheaded at the temple complex as some sort of religious sacrifice.
Human figurines have been discovered at Teotihuacan. (blog.bighistoryproject.com)
A Treasure Trove
Archaeologists digging at the Pyramid of the Sun in 2011 discovered a large treasure trove of artifacts. Included among the clay pottery and animal bones were three human figurines fashioned out of greenstone.
The green mask found at the Pyramid of the Sun was made of a green stone called serpentine. (knowledgetime.net)
A Green Mask
One of the most unusual finds during this 2011 excavation was a green serpentine mask. No other similar masks have been discovered at the site, making this one truly one-of-a-kind. The green stone mask is life-size with distinctive features, leading researchers who have studied the mask to believe that it was intended to be a portrait of a specific person, perhaps a king or high-ranking priest.
Work continues at Teotihuacan. (ppcteotihuacan.org)
What Do These Discoveries Mean?
Although it was obvious that the serpentine mask and three greenstone figurines were intentionally placed inside the Pyramid of the Sun, archaeologists still have no idea who put them there or why. Perhaps the mask is a representation of a person who is buried in the pyramid, and the figurines are tokens or talismans that were important to that person. Until archaeologists can determine which ancient culture of Mesoamerica built Teotihuacan, the Pyramid of the Sun, and the Pyramid of the Moon, they can only theorize about the long-abandoned city and its mysterious pyramids.