Teotihuacan Treasures on Display in San Francisco Museum

Pyramids of the Sun and Moon on the Avenue of the Dead, Teotihuacan ancient historic cultural city, old ruins of Aztec civilization, Mexico, North America, world travelThe MesoAmerican ruins of Teotihuacan, located outside of Mexico City, are one of the world’s most visited archaeological sites and among the largest cities in the ancient Americas. Archeologists knew little about this mysterious culture and its people until a chance discovery some 11 years ago. Unusually heavy rains formed a sinkhole, which led scientists to a massive tunnel 60 feet below the temple complex. Over the next decade archeologist Sergio Gómez Chávez and his team unearthed a treasure trove of artifacts dating back more than 1,800 years, some of which are currently on exhibit at San Francisco’s de Young museum.

Treasure trove discovered in Teotihuacan

Among the captivating items discovered were crystals fashioned into eyes, ornate jade statues and necklaces made of human and crocodile teeth. Within the tunnel lay an incredible man-made landscape filled with miniature mountains, walls embedded with fool’s gold (powdered pyrite) and pools of liquid mercury.

This subterranean discovery offered clues about this once populous metropolis, which has been shrouded in mystery for centuries. At its peak, Teotihuacan was home to more than 200,000 residents and covered 21 square miles, making it the biggest city in the western hemisphere.  

The name Teotihuacan translates to “birthplace of the gods,” a title bestowed by the Aztecs who revered the stunning architecture of the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon.

For those who are unable to visit this magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site in Mexico, the exhibit ‘Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire’ will be on view at San Francisco’s de Young museum until February 11, 2018.

Teotihuacan exhibit in San Francisco

This exhibit marks the first display of Teotihuacan artifacts on the U.S. mainland for more than 20 years. Organized through a joint partnership between San Francisco’s Fine Arts Museums and Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH), the exhibit will feature never-before-seen relics, ceramics, paintings, mural fragments, and stone sculptures along with ritual items from the site’s three pyramids. The exhibition will provide a unique opportunity for audiences to learn more about the ancient city of Teotihuacan and its role in Mexico’s cultural landscape.

The exhibit contains 200 artifacts crafted from a variety of materials, including jade, marble, obsidian, alabaster, green stone, slate, shells, lime and volcanic rock. Many of these discoveries are thought to have religious significance, perhaps being used for ritual ceremonies and events.

The de Young exhibit will also feature four greenstone statues adorned with garments and beads, believed to be the earliest shamans of Teotihuacan.

While these impressive archaeological discoveries shed light on this once powerful cultural center, many mysteries remain.

Additional Teotihuacan Resources:

  1. The Guardian, Lakes of mercury and human sacrifices – after 1,800 years, Teotihuacan reveals its treasures https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/sep/24/teotihuacan-pyramids-treasures-secret-de-young-museum-san-francisco
  2. KQED.org, Recently Discovered Treasure Trove in ‘Teotihuacan’ https://ww2.kqed.org/arts/2017/10/12/de-young-hosts-recently-discovered-treasure-trove-in-teotihuacan/
  3. SmithsonianMag.com, Secret Tunnel Found in Mexico May Finally Solve the Mysteries of Teotihuacán https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/discovery-secret-tunnel-mexico-solve-mysteries-teotihuacan-180959070/
Thursday, October 26th, 2017
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