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Pyramids of the Sun and Moon

The Tzacualli, or Sacred Pyramids of San Juan Teotihuacan (Aztec "City of the Gods "), known also as the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon, lie 27 miles N.-E. of Mexico City, and are considered the two largest artificial mounds in America. Seen from the sky, they appear squat and non-descript; it is only when standing near them and viewing them from the plains from which they rise that their true proportions are apparent. Their origin is buried in the remote past, and the confusing legends and traditions referring to them throw but little true light on their history, or that of the people who erected them.

The Pyramid of the Sun is approximately 760 feet long, 720 feet wide and 216 feet high. It tapers gradually in terraces toward the top which is a level stone floor about 60 by 100 feet. Flights of stairs leading to the summit, on the east side of the mound, are of various degrees of steepness. It was at first thought that the early tribes who built the pyramids covered them over with earth as a means of protection from their enemies. The present theory is that the ash and cinders from the erupting volcanoes, combined with the settling of dust, have through the centuries formed a cover. At the time excavations revealed the pyramids beneath, this cover was a yard thick. According to tradition a splendid temple once crowned this platform, and contained a gigantic statue of the Sun, made of a single block of porphyry, adorned with a heavy breast-plate of gold and many minor embellishments of silver. The original form of the mounds was supposed to be temple-shaped. They are constructed of blocks of basalt and trachitic rock covered with earth that is now being removed.

The Pyramid of the Moon (Meztli) is about 151 ft. high, with a base measuring 511 by 426 ft. The crowning platform is about 19 ft. square. The hill is terraced, like its companion, and traces of an ancient structure, perhaps a tomb, are visible on it. Both pyramids are composed of five layers or coats of earth and volcanic rock, each layer a complete pyramid in itself; its outer surface being faced with masonry and then plastered over with a thin coating of cement or fine mortar. These layers, superimposed, resemble anest of boxes.

Somewhat south of the Pyramid of the Moon and extending in a general southerly direction is a covered avenue "El Camino de los Muertos" (The path of the Dead). Excavations revealed tombs containing human bones, heads modeled in terra cotta, implements made of obsidian and various articles of pottery. The clay heads are supposed to be the effigies of buried priests and kings. Of the many hundreds that have been exhumed, no two were alike in feature. The striking resemblance of features of some of the clay heads excavated to those excavated in Egypt, as well as the similarity in the construction of the Pyramids in the old and the new world, led some to the theory that the first inhabitants of Mexico originated from Egypt.

The street begins at the square on the S. side of the P. of the Moon and extends to the ravine S. of the P. of the Sun. The remains of sidewalks, made of cement, coated and painted red and white, are visible along this street. Painted frescoes have also been uncovered. Hundreds of smaller mounds cluster near the two main structures. One of the former (uncovered by Seflor Leopoldo Batres in 1906) revealed a symmetrical, truncated pyramid with a house over and around it now known as the House of the Priests. The excavations have disclosed two strata, an Aztec superimposed above a Toltec. In the latter, highly varnished black pottery has been found. Also terra-cotta heads, unmistakably Toltec, with broad faces and flat noses. Those found in the Aztec stratum have long faces and Roman noses.

Pyramid of the Sun

Pyramid of the Sun and Great Pyramid of Giza

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Page last modified: 03-04-2012 19:37:03 ZULU