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Video transcript

we're standing in the archaeological park of the ancient site of TIA to akan we're about 25 miles northwest of Mexico City the site of Teotihuacan is known as the city of the gods the name given to it by the much later Aztecs they looked back at what was then in ruins but thought of it as a sacred city sometime around the year 100 BCE you have the beginnings of Teotihuacan and then sometime between around 600-700 of the Common Era things start to go awry here and so when the Aztecs are making pilgrimages to this site much later from their capital city of Tenochtitlan or Mexico City they were amazed and impressed they believed that this was the city where the gods lived where the fifth Sun was created and they named this place and they named the streets and they named the buildings but we don't know the original names so this long Avenue was named by the Aztecs as the Avenue of the Dead charity wakhan is a great mystery in many ways we don't know what language they spoke we don't know what they called themselves we don't have a written language that we know of and even though we do know a lot about the city and the population of Teotihuacan some of the basic foundational knowledge is lost to us temporarily hopefully so from what we found from the art from the archaeology for the buildings we can say that they were masters of city planning that they built these fabulous temples but we don't see ruler portraits like we might see an Olmec culture that's a little bit earlier what we find here at Teotihuacan are these clear centralized government whether a single ruler or a body of rulers it's unclear to us but whoever was in control had enough power to organize labor to plan on this massive scale and everything is so standardized the city itself is very centralized and it's planned on this grid plan there was no precedent for this type of highly organized centralized city and so there must have been enough food that was grown and brought into the city we're talking about a highly organized higher Cuoco culture that could pull off monumental architecture over a period of hundreds of years and the fact that we don't have this cult of personality that we don't have clear portraits is kind of amazing it's frustrating to us today because we want to read into these beautifully complex murals that you find all over the city we want to see rulers we want to see narratives that talk about the ideologies that are being conveyed to the population through a ruler or rulers but what we see in these murals instead are the main deities some kind of storm gods some type of Great Goddess animal figures like coyotes and jaguars and warriors and we see a relationship between the monumental architecture and the landscape around it because as we look toward the Pyramid of the moon the shape of it is echoed by the mountain behind it Teotihuacan owes as we call them we don't know what they called themselves we're clearly planning some of their structures in accordance with the natural environment to almost create sacred landscape within the city itself so as we stand here and look out we see three main pyramids we have the temple of the moon at the far end of the street of the Dead the Pyramid of the Sun a little bit further down to the side and then the Pyramid of the feathered serpent much further down the street of the Dead and the street of the Dead ran four miles so it's quite long and it really must have felt like a real procession way toward this sacred building if we're on the street of the Dead it's about a hundred and thirty-five feet wide and so you get this sense that you're processing down with Grand Boulevard it's very impressive to be walking through this city it makes the approach to it formal and processional and ritualized and when we look at the pyramid of the moon-- it would have originally been even taller with probably wood structures on top and we also have to imagine on all of these buildings would have been stuccoed and then brightly painted so the city would have been extremely vibrant off the street of the Dead there are approximately 2,000 apartment complexes on this grid plan a lot of the ones close to the street of the Dead are more complex we think that they were four elites and they too are heavily decorated with things like mural painting so we have to imagine something that looks entire different than the ruins that we see today we also have to imagine all the activities here whether they're ritual or merchants so only a small portion of the site has been excavated there are continuing excavations here archaeologists are finding amazing things on a regular basis including a recent discovery of a tunnel under the Pyramid of the feathered serpent we could know so much more than we know now I hope we do you