Teotihuacan Research Laboratory

Residences and Social Organizations

by Research Professor Saburo Sugiyama

Teotihuacan was evidently a religious locus where ceremonial activities took place as a major function of the city. However, the location became multi-functional as social or civil sectors developed in accordance with growing state power.

Surrounding the three largest pyramids were more than 2,000 apartment compounds that seemingly functioned as residences and/or other kinds of social activity areas. They were constructed with standardized architectural styles, often standard size (60 X 60 meters), using similar kinds of locally available construction materials and with rigorously determined orientations. There was no single building breaking these architectural cannons, indicating that the Teotihuacan government substantially intervened in construction works to control urban landscape and probably social lives of the residents.

One residence/office complex located on the west side of the Avenue of the Dead in Teotihuacan.


Abundant materials excavated from the residential compounds indicate that the society was complex and consisted of stratified factions with diversified specializations that included craftsmen in ceramics, obsidian, shell, textile and other precious stone productions, or people dedicated to rituals, administration, trade/exchange, construction, stone curving, military services or other kinds of household activities. While engaging in these productive intrests, elaborated murals or highly symbolic objects discovered in apartment compounds also confirm that the residents strongly possessed religious and cosmological thoughts.

We also have data for “barrios” occupied by people from distant areas like Oaxaca, Veracruz and northwestern Mexico, confirming the multiethnic nature of the metropolis residents.

In addition, we know that social differentiation was noticeable in material culture among individuals living in the same apartment compounds and also between apartment compounds. However, the “palace” where the leading group lived in Teotihuacan has yet to be identified. Therefore, we do not know yet who governed this large ceremonial center or how.