Teotihuacan Research Laboratory

The Three Pyramids in Ritual Landscape

by Research Professor Saburo Sugiyama

According to recent discoveries and ongoing research, it is possible to conclude that Teotihuacan was not a small village that developed gradually throughout the centuries. Instead, it was a planned city since its early stage that emerged rather rapidly with 3 conspicuous monuments.

The city was evidently created to materialize an innovative worldview that symbolically encoded the movements of astronomical objects and calendar cycles in spatial distributions. Religious and political messages from leading groups were also integrated into monumental constructions.

The Avenue of the Dead viewed from the Moon Pyramid of the 2001 spring equinox. This is a modern version of mass-public gatherings on a special day, suggesting that hundreds of thousands of people could easily have fit in the planned ancient city


The 3 pyramids were fundamental factors in attracting residents and outsiders well beyond the Central Mexican Highlands, including ethnic groups in Oaxaca, the Gulf Coast of Mexico, the Maya area and Northwestern regions. The evidence of burials and rich offerings found in the monuments provided new perspectives on the city: that Teotihuacanos possessed innovative cosmology and and a sacred military institution and practiced sacrificial rituals of humans and animals.

Monumental constructions carried out in ritual landscape indicate that strongly centralized rulership was involved in this program of unprecedented scale.

As ongoing excavations progress, we will be able to learn more about the religious institutions, political organizations and rulers who created one of the most spectacular monumental cities in the world.