Teotihuacan - Recent Archaeological Discoveries

"Around 600 CE Teotihuacan in modern central Mexico was probably the sixth largest city in the world. (Rene Millon in Kathleen Berrin and Esther Pasztory, Teotihuacan. Art from the City of the Gods. All references are from articles in this source.) It was also one of the most rigorously regular in its central several square miles, laid out in a grid pattern bisected by the great north-south "Street of the Dead," with an important east-west axial avenue as well. A continuing fascinating frustration is the lack of several basic keys to the socio-cultural factors that produced the great metropolis. What was the nature of its rulership, and what ethnic sources provided that rulership? What language was spoken by that group? While much more has been learned in recent years about interactions between Teotihuacan and often distant power centers (the Zapotec of Monte Alban in modern Oaxaca; the Maya of the Escuintla area of the Pacific coast of modern Guatemala and far inland in the area of the great site of Tikal), much still needs determining regarding length through time of such influence and extent of actual presence of members of Teotihuacan's rulership structure. Then there is the great final question: what caused the intentional violent destruction of power centers and burning of central parts of the city?

The recent archaeological accounts below report on current efforts, several of them long-term, ongoing projects, to probe more and more deeply beneath the surface for possible answers to some of the above questions. A great barrier still remains in the mysterious absence of any developed system of written language paralleling the advanced hieroglyphic writing system of the Maya and nascent ones in Oaxaca and the Gulf coastal areas." John Lunsford ( see background at the end of this article)

1. April 11, 2011 - BARCELONA.- Teotihuacan, City of the Gods, the most complete exhibition ever devoted to Teotihuacan culture recently opened at Caixaforum Barcelona.
The objective behind the exhibitions that “la Caixa” Foundation has devoted in recent years to the great cultures of the past is to illustrate how men and women in different places and times  have attempted to
answer the great universal questions, and to increase our understanding of the world by showcasing the most recent historic and archaeological research.
To this end, such exhibitions as those devoted to the Steppe Route, Afghanistan, Nubia, the Persian Empire and treasures from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have all served to underline the  links between the ancient and modern worlds, and to present culture as a means of understanding and communication between peoples.
This is not the first time that an exhibition at ”la Caixa” Foundation has focused on ancient Mexican cultures; having previously showcased Life and Death. Funeral Art in Western Mexico, then,  ”la Caixa” Foundation now presents Teotihuacan, City of the Gods.
Jointly organised with the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History, Teotihuacan, City of the Gods commemorates a century of archaeological excavations in that pre-Hispanic  city. The most important exhibition ever devoted to Teotihuacan culture, the show is presented at CaixaForum as part of an international itinerary that has taken it to Mexico (Monterrey and Mexico DF) and several European cities, including Paris, Zurich,  Berlin and Rome. Already, more than 350,000 people have taken the chance to admire the many outstanding works the show features. “The Place of the Gods” The city of Teotihuacan, located 45 kilometres from Mexico City, is one of the archaeological wonders of the world and was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1987. The principal  monuments in the city —the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon, which are connected by the Avenue of the Dead, the beautiful Palace of the Jaguars and the Temple of  Quetzalcóalt— are references in universal culture.. More... http://artdaily.com/news/46433/A-Century-of-Archaeological-Excavations-Commemorated-in--Teotihuacan--City-of-the-Gods- #.VFQdMf50zVk


2. April 26, 2013 - MEXICO CITY (AFP).- A small robot has discovered three possible burial chambers under a temple in Mexico's pre-Hispanic city of Teotihuacan, a find that may reveal secrets  about funeral rituals in the ancient site.
The robot, dubbed Tlaloc II-TC, located the chambers in the last section of a 2,000-year-old tunnel tucked under the Temple of the Feathered Snake, surprising archeologists who had expected  to find just one room.
The National Anthropology and History Institute said the find could shed light on the burial rituals of the rulers of Teotihuacan, which is some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Mexico City.
The mystery-filled ancient city is known for its majestic pyramids of the sun and the moon, but little is known about the people who inhabited the site. Teotihuacan, whose name means "City of  Gods," had long been abandoned when Aztecs arrived in the area in the 1300s.
The tunnel under the Temple of Quetzacoatl, or Feathered Snake, was discovered after heavy rain uncovered a hole in the ground in 2003.
Tlaloc II-TC, named after the Aztec god of rain, was made to navigate rough terrain and is equipped with an infrared camera and a scanner that generates detailed maps.
The next step in the research will be to remove rubble blocking the last 30 meters (98 feet) of the 120-meter (394-foot) long tunnel, the anthropology institute said. Archeologists believe the  obstruction hides a staircase that goes down three to four meters deeper below ground....
More....http://artdaily.com/news/62179/Robot-discovers-three-possible-chambers-under-Mexico-s-pre-Hispanic-city-of-Teotihuacan#.VFQZn_50zVk

3.  June 3, 2013 - MEXICO CITY.- The National Institute of Archaeology and History (INAH) is promoting the Mural Painting Conservation Project in Teotihuacan. This project is taking place in  situ and in archives, indeed a tremendous labor, as Ph.D. Maria Teresa Uriarte affirms, “it’s not wild to state that this ancient city was one of the most decorated (with murals and paintings) of  the ancient world.”
“We know that the building were completely polychrome, and many of its floors also have remains, since floors were painted as well” signaled the specialist in Teotihuacan culture and pre  Hispanic mural paintings. Therefore the transcendence of the initiative by INAH which is being lead by restorer Gloria Torres
Rodriguez and archaeologist Claudia Lopez Perez of INAH.
With the purpose of the project being the detection of the murals’ theme, many of its resources are being transferred to the registry of the murals. This registry is also including the murals’  remains in situ (monochrome and polychrome), mural fragments and those found in archaeological excavations, and those that fell and were mounted on synthetic supports. These works of art  where made between the years 200 and 700 AD.
The elaboration of a glossary is also part of the project, as well as a file with a general diagnosis by area, in conformity to what was established in the Management Plan of the pre Hispanic site.
In this sense, one of the fundamental contributions, informed archaeologists Claudia Lopez, is the enquiry that investigators can make of the database, “we will provide elements with which  they can interpret the murals through the iconography. The designs, shapes and styles will be referenced through the glossary”. ...More..http://artdaily.com/news/62989/Mexico-s-National- Institute-of-Archaeology-and-History-announces-Mural-Painting-Conservation-Project#.VFQae_50zVk


4. October 30, 2014 -  MEXICO CITY.- With the announcement that the most recent explorations of the Tlalocan Project have led to the discovery of the threshold of three chambers located  under the Temple of the Feathered Serpent in Teotihuacan, Teresa Franco, director of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), expressed that this and other investigations  under development by the institution create the unique opportunity to understand in depth the cultures in Mesoamerica and Aridoamerica.
The Tlalocan Project: A Path Under the Earth and the incentives of other spaces and structures in Teotihuacan have become the evidence of systematic studies that have been made in these  archaeological zones, enabling researchers to analyze data, revise hypothesis and even calculate the chronology of a metropolis that was developed during eight centuries.
Teresa Franco added that these labors have been multidisciplinary, which has allowed the use of advanced technology, such as the georadar, the laser scanner and a couple of robots developed  by graduates from the National Polytechnic Institute of Mexico. The information derived from the use of these tools has aided investigators to excavate all the way to the last part of a tunnel,  which was closed off 800 thousand years ago by the people in Teotihuacan.
It was before the media that the recently discovered threshold that held the varied offerings was announced, this being the richest one found up to date and which stands guard to three  chambers....More...http://artdaily.com/news/73947/Archaeologists-reveal-1-800-year-old-secrets-of-the-Temple-of-the-Feathered-Serpent-#.VFQbwP50zVk


5.  March 7, 2011 - MEXICO CITY.- A monolith that represents a yet unknown deity that during the first 2 centuries of our era was part of the Sun Pyramid, in the Prehispanic city of  Teotihuacan, will be exhibited for the first time in Six Ancient Cities of Mesoamerica. Society and Environment to be opened at the National Museum of Anthropology (MNA) in Mexico City.
Jointly with this piece, discovered in 2007, will be presented the most complete sculpture found until now of Huehueteotl, deity of fire, informed archaeologist Alejandro Sarabia, curator of  the hall dedicated to Teotihuacan at the great exhibition that will gather more than 400 Prehispanic pieces representing the development of this ancient city, as well as Monte Alban, El Tajin,  Palenque, Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco.
Teotihuacan pieces recently found were discovered during different explorations at the Moon Pyramid and archaeological salvages at the town of San Juan Teotihuacan, in Estado de Mexico.
The director of the archaeological site remarked that the monolith made out of gray andesite “is unique because it depicts a yet unidentified deity in Teotihuacan iconography. It conserves  stucco and pigments, mainly red, representing an odd case regarding other carved stone in the site”.
Sarabia declared that this sculpture was located in December 2007 in a platform that surrounds the southwestern corner of the Sun Pyramid; after its discovery, it underwent a long  conservation process (at the restoration area of the archaeological site), with the aim of fixing the pigments.
“The monolith is 98 centimeters high, 106 wide and 93 deep; it dates from an early stage in the history of Teotihuacan, between centuries 1 and 2 of the Common Era; it must have been used as  an architectural element of the Sun Pyramid, and then it was dismantled with more sculptures, to be part of the offering at another building attached to it.
Archaeologist Sergio Gomez Chavez did a brief recount of all the labors that began 11 years ago with a fortuitous event, when one October morning the intense rain had left open an 83  centimeter [32.67 inch] cavity in front of the Citadel’s Duplex Building. ... More ... http://artdaily.com/news/45506/Monolith-Part-of-Teotihuacan-Sun-Pyramid-to-be-Exhibited-for-the-First- Time#.VFQckv50zVk


6. February 14, 2013 - MEXICO CITY.- Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH - Conaculta) found, at the peak of Pyramid of the Sun, the biggest  Huehueteotl (Old God or God of Fire) sculpture in Teotihuacan, Estado de Mexico; they also found two complete green stone stelae and a fragment of another one, which must have decorated  the temple that crowned this construction 1,500 years ago.
Archaeologist Alejandro Sarabia whom, together with his colleague, PhD Saburo Sagiyuma from the Provincial University of Aichi (Japan), has been developing since 2005 the Pyramid of the  Sun Project, informed that the pieces where found inside a well that possibly dates back to the end of the V century or the beginning of the VI century of our era.
The temple, which existed at the peak of the pyramid, was destroyed by Teotihuacan’s people during this period, but some architectonic elements –much like the stelae– where left in place.  Sarabia and his team consider that the well was excavated in pre Hispanic times in order to recover the main offering of the construction. This was an act that demystified the construction;  also, ancient Teotihuacans spread the main offering in other public buildings of the ancient city.
Archaeologist Nelly Zoe Nuñez Rendon, another investigator of the Pyramid of the Sun Project, who is responsible for the excavations at the top of the construction, said that the excavations’  initial objective was to locate the last movement of the bodies.....More..  http://artdaily.com/news/60734/Archaeologists-find-large-sculpture-of-Huehuet-otl--God-of-Fire--atop-the-Pyramid- of-the-Sun#.VFQYnf50zVk

7. MEXICO CITY - In pictures: Relics discovered in Mexico's TeotihuacanSome 50,000 relics have been discovered in Mexico in the ancient city of Teotihuacan, Mexican archaeologists say.
The city, located about 50 km (30 miles) northeast of Mexico City, dominated central Mexico in pre-Columbian times. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-29828309

8. MEXICO CITY.- July 26, 2009 - Sun Pyramid was the axis mundi for Teotihuacan culture, a space from which celestial and underworld levels were accessed symbolically. The four directions of the universe parted from here as well, and this scheme was adopted later by Tolteca and Mexica societies when drafting their ceremonial centers.
The later was informed by archaeologist Eduardo Matos Moctezuma during his participation at “Teotihuacan, identity and heritage of Mexico” master conference series, taking place in the National Museum of Anthropology (MNA) as part of the 70th anniversary of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) celebrations.
For the INAH emeritus professor that collaborated with the Teotihuacan Project (1962-1964) and directed a special archaeological initiative there in the early 1990’s, there are several elements that confirm the sacredness of the Sun Pyramid.
“These axis mundi buildings face east, present evidence of human sacrifices, are related to water and fertility, are linked to death-life duality, and are surrounded by great platforms that prevent direct entrance to them”.
During the archaeological explorations where he participated, it was confirmed that access was restricted: the only entrance was through the Dead Roadway and the frontal staircase, which points out to its sacredness.
“We think the Sun Pyramid was the first center of Teotihuacan city. Towards 250 AD, it would be moved to the south, at La Ciudadela and the Feathered Serpent Temple, where the axis mundi patron repeated” declared the Colegio Nacional Member. .... more... http://artdaily.com/news/32282/Sun-Pyramid-was-the-Axis-Mundi-for-Teotihuacan-Culture-#.VFaMkP50zVk

9.  MEXICO CITY.- April 1, 2010 - Iconographic studies of Teotihuacan murals confirm the extension of the lineage of a ruler of the ancient city of Tikal, Guatemala, already revealed by epigraphists of the Maya area.
The aforementioned investigation sums up to interpretations of Stele 31 of Tikal that relate to the dynastic line of Atlatl-Cauac (“Dart-thrower Owl”), possible ruler of Teotihuacan between 374 and 439 AD, and whose son, Yax Nuun Ayiin I, was seignior of Tikal. The emblem of this lineage would be represented by the image of a bird with a shield, observed in Teotihuacan murals, declared Dr. Raul Garcia Chavez, researcher at the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).
There would be a relation between the register at Tikal and other Maya sites of late 4th century, which refers to the son of Atlatl-Cauac, Yax Nuun Ayiin I, as ruler of Tikal between 379 and 404 AD, commented the researcher during his participation at the 6th Academic Conference of Archaeology at Templo Mayor Museum.
The archaeologist from Estado de Mexico INAH Center, remarked that a series of enthroned figures with eye rings and headdress began appearing at iconographic register of Teotihuacan from 370 of the Common Era, possibly symbolizing the supreme ruler of the Central High Plateau city.
Iconography apparently indicates that the Teotihuacan ruler “was part of a clan whose emblem was an owl with a shield crossed by a hand taking up a dart or the dart-thrower. Sometimes it was represented with a cotton tassel headdress and the eye rings; others, without eye rings but enthroned”, explained the specialist.
“Evidence (at Teotihuacan) is fragmented. Some representations at the murals, among them a green-feathered bird with a dart-thrower (atlatl) and a shield, could refer to this character “Dart-thrower Owl” or maybe to his representation as a mythic element”.
“This representation has been found in many examples of Teotihuacan mural painting. Nevertheless, most paintings are fragmented so iconographic discourse is incomprehensible”. ... more..
 http://artdaily.com/news/37184/Teotihuacan-Lineage-at-Tikal-Studied#.VFaN9P50zVk

10. MEXICO CITY. - October 6, 2010 - Although research conducted at Teotihuacan Archaeological Zone has allowed determining several of its urban features, the construction of its most emblematic monument, the Sun Pyramid, still presents enigmas, like the real significance it had for dwellers, since no historical sources exist.
M.A. Ruben Cabrera Castro, researcher at the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), tried to elucidate the sense this 65-meter building had for ancient Teotihuacan dwellers. Although information has been provided by material rests found, it is difficult to be certain about Prehispanic thought.
At the conference series at the Center of Teotihuacan Studies, part of commemorations of the centennial of the opening of the archaeological site, Cabrera recalled that recently archaeologist Jaime Delgado conducted a survey among dwellers of the Valley of Teotihuacan and urban communities near Mexico City, workers and specialists at the archaeological site: What does the Sun Pyramid Means to You?
General population manifested that it is the most important building of Teotihuacan, a monument dedicated to the Sun, a center of energy, the main attraction of Teotihuacan, something majestic, a manifestation of despotic power, a ceremonial center, a tomb, a national symbol, an enigma…for archaeologists it is the central nucleus of Teotihuacan urban system too.
Still, its original meaning is a mystery, “mainly because in Teotihuacan we don’t have well-analyzed writing; glyphs were recently found at La Ventilla neighborhood, but they are being analyzed”, mentioned Ruben Cabrera.
According to the archaeologist, “this building is for many researchers a “water mountain” or altepetl: it is known that pyramids are replicas of hills, which were conceived as water providers.
“This allows us thinking that the Sun Pyramid is related to strength, fertility, water and the underworld, from where life comes from and where humans go after death, and maybe important characters, from the point of view of Teotihuacan people”. .. more.. http://artdaily.com/news/41546/Teotihuacan-s-Emblematic-Monument--The-Sun-Pyramid--Still-an-Enigma-for-Archaeologists#.VFaS__50zVk


11. MEXICO CITY.  August 5, 2009  - More than 300 greenstone tiles found inside the Moon Pyramid originated a human sculpture that gives testimony of the esthetic cannons of the ancient Teotihuacan culture. The effigy is one of the emblematic pieces of the exhibition “Teotihuacan. Ciudad de los Dioses” (Teotihuacan, City of Gods), open until late August in the National Museum of Anthropology (MNA).
Fragments were found in 2004 by archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) associated to the Burial 6 of the pyramid. Specialist though the pieces were part of a mask.
Dated near 300 AD and made out of serpentine, reconstruction of the “Anthropomorphic Figure” was an arduous work directed by restorer Laura Filloy Nadal, from the MNA Conservation Laboratory.
The figure also has fragments of calcite, dolomite, jade and obsidian that form eyes, lips, and jewelry such as earpieces and necklace.
Restoration of the representation of a high rank character or warrior began with photographic register in situ of the pieces in order to specify the place of each piece. Fragments have different sizes, from a millimeter to 3 centimeters that formed a torso, arms and a pair of earpieces. Carbonized fragments that might have been
a support were also found.
“Tiles corresponded to the frontal part of a sculpture” specified Filloy, adding that tiles’ morphology varied from fragments of curved to straight cuts, with convex, concave or flat surfaces. Edges were cut on the bias to be assembled.
Using 3 dimensional images, an preliminary effigy was modeled that later was made out with plasticine; this allowed to determine the place of each piece.
A 31 centimeters high full-body human figure resulted, and then a rigid resin cast was created to glue on each fragment with a transparent adhesive.
The final touch consisted in the general polish of the sculpture, mentioned Laura Filloy, after declaring that aluminum tubes were installed inside the structure to give it stability. .. more ...
http://artdaily.com/news/32511/Restored-Teotihuacan-Effigy-Exhibited-at-National-Museum-of-Anthropology-#.VFaQuP50zVk







John Lunsford
Independent Art Historian

Biographical Data

Studied

Harvard College, Cambridge, MA, AB cum laude (English literature), 1954;
Columbia University, New York, Graduate School of Art History and Archaeology M.A., 1968

Professional Experience

*1958 to 1986 - Dallas Museum of Art: from Assistant Curator to Senior Curator. Primary areas of responsibility were Pre-Columbian, African, Oceanic, Island Indonesian, and Native American art. Pre-Columbian collections grew from about fifty pieces to well over three thousand while the African collection grew from zero to over four hundred. Both collections are considered to be of national importance.
*1968 to 1996 - Adjunct Associate Professor in Art History, Southern Methodist University
*1987 - Duke University Museum of Art. Assessment of the Pre-Columbian Collection
*1996 to 2001 - Director of the Meadows Museum, Southern Methodist University. During this tenure the new building was completed and opened with a new installation of the collection.
*2006 to 2007 - Heritage Auction House – consultant for the sale of African, Pre-Columbian, Oceanic, and American Native arts.

Author

The Arts of Man, 1962, Dallas Museum of Art
Indian Arts of the Americas, 1963, Dallas Museum of Art
The Clark and Frances Stillman Collection of Congo Sculpture, Dallas, 1969, Dallas Museum of Art
The M.P. Potamkin Collection, Dallas, 1970, Dallas Museum of Arts
Arts of Oceania, Dallas, 1970, Dallas Museum of Art
The Romantic Vision in America, Dallas, 1971, Dallas Museum of Art
African Art from Dallas Collections, Dallas, 1972
The Schindler Collection of African Sculpture, Dallas, 1975, Dallas Museum of Art
“Preclassic and Protoclasic Sources for a Classic Veracruz Bowl” in Precolumbian Art in Southern Collections, Huntsville Museum of Art (Alabama) 1979
“Trophy-Head Effigies from Costa Rica”, in Before Columbus, Ancient Arts of Central and South America, Amarillo Art Center, 1980
“Seeing African Sculpture” in African Art from the Permanent Collection of Loch Haven Art Center, Loch Haven, Florida: Loch Haven Art Center, 1984
“Form and Technique in Pre-Columbian Metalwork: A Comparison Between Calima and Sican Approaches” in Metalurgia de America Precolumbina/Precolumbian American Metallurgy (45th International Congress of Americanists) Bogota: Banco de la Republica, 1986
“Exhibition Review: The Blood of Kings. Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art,” African Arts, vol xx, no 1. November 1986.
Contributing author: In Pursuit of Quality. An Illustrated History of the Art and Architecture, The Kimbell Art Museum (Fort Worth), 1987


Teaching

“Non-Western Art Traditions: A Survey”
“Traditional Art of Africa
“Art of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica
“Art and Architecture of the Ancient Maya”
“American Indian and Eskimo Art”
“Survey of Non-Western Art”
Connoisseurship”
“The Art of India
“Pre-Columbian Art of Central and South America
“Art of Oceania

Private Consulting

1987 to Present – Provided expertise in authentication and connoisseurship of African, Pre-Columbian, American Indian, and Oceanic art to private and institutional clients. List provided on request and as permitted by the client.

Conferences and Seminars

1976 to Present - Maya Meetings at Texas, University of Texas, Austin (20 conferences)
1977 - UCLA Arts of Ghana Symposium, Los Angeles, California
1982 - West African Art Symposium, The Spirit of African Art in the South, Memphis State University
1985 - “Behind the Mask” (Keynote address), Idaho Art Association Annual Meeting, Sun Valley, Idaho
1985 - Presenter, 45th International Congress of Americanists, Bogota, Colombia
2001 - Seminar, Copan Ruinas, Honduras
2002 - Palenque Roundtable, Palenque, Mexico


John Lunsford
Dallas, Texas 
November 16, 2014