History of International Relations Textbook

The Americas

Teotihuacan and Tula

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Two thousand years ago it was the city of Teotihuacán which dominated the valley. With its estimated 150,000 people it was the largest city in the Americas at the time, and it was so crowded that some of the inhabitants had to live in multi-story apartment buildings. Teotihuacán was a multi-ethnic city and not the center of an empire. It was looted and destroyed in 550 CE. Today Teotihuacán is the most visited archaeological site in Mexico, famous for the large pyramids located along the so called “Avenue of the Dead.” The Pyramid of the Sun was both the political and the religious center of the city. Despite the fame and power of the city of Teotihuacán, its history is still largely unknown. We do not know what language its people spoke, or even what its proper name was. “Teotihuacán” is a name coined centuries later. The people here had writing of some kind, though it seems not to have been used much; in any case the script has not been deciphered.

Tula, inhabited by the Toltecs, took over the position held by Teotihuacán in the valley of Mexico and dominated political and cultural life here in the centuries around the year 1000 CE. They came after Teotihuacán and before the Aztecs, in other words. What we know about them is largely filtered through the stories recorded in notoriously unreliable Aztec sources. There are still large statues of Toltec warriors to be seen, carved in limestone and volcanic rock.