Thursday, April 5, 2012

Teotihuacan -- Day 88

Walk: Car/de Young, /Corte Madera shopping
Distance: 1 Mile and private yoga practice

Today's art history lecture at the de Young was on Teotihuacan, once the largest, most densely populated, specifically laid out, essentially city in the New World and the 6th largest city in the entire ancient world. It was founded - ie, ceremonial sites began to be developed - in around 100 BC and destroyed somewhere around 550-600 AD. (700 years). It was multi-ethnic (which can be told from analyzing old bones) and its peak population was 100-200,000. These things are known.

What scholars don't know are things like: the language spoken by the rulers, how it was governed, who attacked it taking out ceremonial centers in devastating fires. People still came to Teotihuacan after the firey destruction, so the civilization is not a lost one, but the principal leadership had been destroyed.

Since the Mexico City Olympics, which focused world attention on the Teotihuacan ruins approximately 30 miles away, there has been ongoing scholarly interest and research. The area is huge, at least 20 square kilometers, the peak civilization was 1300 years ago and the intentional destruction was vast so unearthing and decoding/understanding what they are looking at and how it related to the Teotihuacan culture and the larger Mesoamerican towns and cultures around the Yucatan peninsula, is a prodigious scholarly challenge that also leads to a constant stream of new historical publications and understandings.

Facts aside, there is something awesome, just sitting and taking in the fact that here - way (1300 years) before our time - was an entire, rich, thriving, influential, urban civilization (with pyramids, urban planning, public housing apartment complexes, mass produced and distributed art among other human advances) which endured for 700 years that we know essentially nothing about.

This is the layout of the Huge ceremonial core. The road at an intentional 15 degree angle is the Avenue of the Dead which ends at the Pyramid of the Moon.

From the Pyramid of the Moon one can see the Pyramid of the Sun:

The third pyramid is the Temple of the Feathered Serpent which has much exterior architectural detail remaining - although, like the other two pyramids - it was looted and smashed in ancient times so we don't know what was at the ceremonial center.

The apartments and other temples show a vast amount of mural work, a small percentage of which has been unearthed and salvaged.

Ceramic, stone, obsidian and even a few remaining wood icons are also found in abundance.

And we know so little about these people, this culture - virtually nothing - in this day and age where we usually know so (too?) much about those with whom we share our planet.

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