Have you visited the amazing archaeological sites of Mexico? There are plenty of them in our country, especially in the center and south of Mexico. If you have had the opportunity to visit one of these national treasures, we think you will agree with us that they are truly spectacular.
From the 187 archaeological sites open to the public in Mexico, there are two sites that stand out from the rest in the number of visitors, both attract well over two million each year. Teotihuacán is 25 miles northeast of Mexico City and Chichén Itzá is less than 75 miles southeast of Mérida, deep in the jungle of the Yucatán Peninsula. Both have been designated United Nations World Heritage Sites.
Teotihuacan is in the state of Mexico and has become the symbol of Mexico and its people. It is one of the most important ancient cities in the center of the country. its name in Nahuatl means “the place where men become gods.” Teotihuacan was already built and abandoned when the Aztecs occupied the region that is now the heart of Mexico City. They gave the name to this place and the people who lived there, which was a mystery for them, and still is for us.
We had the opportunity to visit Teotihuacan two years ago to see the majesty of La Pirámide del Sol (the Pyramid of the Sun), La Pirámide de la Luna (The Pyramid of the Moon), La Calzada de los Muertos (The Avenue of the Dead), El Templo de la Ciudadela (The Temple of the Citadel), El Templo de la Serpiente Emplumada (The Temple of the Feathered Serpent), El Palacio de Tepantitla (The Palace of Tepantitla) and El Palacio de los Jaguares (The Palace of Jaguars).
Walking along the Calzada de los Muertos is just a wonderful stroll. There are smaller pyramids along this “avenue.” You have the opportunity to explore the ruins and climb the smaller pyramids. After that, you can continue walking until you get to a square, which places you right in front of the mammoth Pyramid of the Sun. You will want to take a moment to appreciate the magnificence of this monument.
Archaeologists have found objects and relics in the area surrounding the Pyramid of the Sun that are more related to the cult of water. These discoveries make them believe that the pyramid was more about the cult of water instead of the Sun. However, it has kept its original name since the time of the Aztecs.
In its time of maximum splendor there were more than 100,000 inhabitants. Its privileged location in a valley rich in natural resources made this beautiful city the most relevant city because of its architecture, economics, political organization and religion. Teotihuacan also became a cultural center during the pre-Columbian era. The most impressive thing is that even now we haven’t finished unraveling all its secrets. For example, they have found long tunnels from one pyramid to the others, but still don’t know why they are there. We do know that since the time of the Aztecs Teotihuacan was considered a sacred place.
The other archaeological site as important as Teotihuacan is Chichén Itzá, The Maya began building this ancient city over 1,200 years ago. The Maya were well known for their knowledge of science, mathematics and astrology. As an example, they created a calendar based on a vigesimal system, which consists of eighteen months of twenty days each, and an extra month of five days.
Among Chichén Itzá’s main structures are “El Castillo” (the castle), the observatory “El Caracol” (the snail), “El Juego de Pelota” (the Ball Game) and “El Templo de las mil columnas” (the Temple of the thousand columns).
One of the most important discoveries in Chichén Itzá was the sacred cenote, where the Maya sacrificed humans and other offerings to their gods. Archaeologists have found bones from maidens who were sacrificed, prisoners of war and a wealth of riches inside this deep well.
Archaeologists also discovered that the Pyramid of Kukulkán was built in three stages. The Maya built the first pyramid, then another on top of the first one, and then a third one on top of the other two, which is the one we know best.
You can enter the first pyramid, but be careful because it is not for claustrophobics and it is also very warm inside. You have to climb a very narrow stairway to reach the top of the inner pyramid where you can see a beautiful statue of a red jaguar decorated with jade stones.
Thousands of people also gather each year for the equinox of spring and the equinox of autumn in Chichén Itzá. These two specific days of the year are very special because it’s when you can see the feathered serpent creeping down the Pyramid of Kukulkán. It is just an extraordinary event, or better said, a one-of-a-kind event.
Please join us next time when we will visit more of Mexico’s amazing archaeological sites. Saludos!