Teotihuacan Research Laboratory

Feathered Serpent Pyramid and Citadel Complex


by Research Professor Saburo Sugiyama

The Feathered Serpent Pyramid (FSP) was one of the most conspicuous monuments in Mesoamerica, although its size was not enormous (65 m X 65 m on the base, and around 23 m high originally).

The four façades were covered completely with elaborate sculptures in the form of mythical animal heads. Considering the size and amount of blocks used to complete the sculptural program, in addition to the simultaneous construction of the Citadel, the FSP evidently consumed the most labor of any building at Teotihuacan.

The Citadel was a ceremonial enclosure that had the capacity to receive more than 100,000 people inside. Virtually all of the residents, in addition to thousands of pilgrims, could have fit, apparently to observe ritual performances taking place at the pyramid.

Two large architectural compounds located north and south of the FSP seem to have been offices, residences or locations for ritual preparations associated with the Feathered Serpent.

Excavation in 1917–22 revealed that the large mound was composed of two units: the main pyramid with its enigmatic creature heads, built around AD 200, and the adosada platform, which covered the main façade of the pyramid around AD 350.

Recent research has shown that there was another large public structure, before the Citadel was built, that was almost completely destroyed by the construction of the FSP. The location was already a public space – possibly for ritual activities – since its early time, and the FSP with its Citadel complex continuously functioned until the collapse of the city sometime in the 5th century AD.