Mexico City and the High Central Plateau, January 2009

Old Pre-Columbian Mexico

Photos by Walt & Gloria Fogler-Mancini


The photographs were taken with Leica digital cameras, an M8, D-LUX 2 and the R9 with a digital back.  All images are copyrighted and may not be reproduced without permission.. Our other webpages may be accessed through

June 25, 2009                                                                                                                                                                wgfm

Before the Spanish came to Mexico, there had been two civilizations from the central plateau that dominated Mesoamerica.  The first was at what the Aztecs later called Teotihuacan, “the place where men become gods”.  It was founded by an unknown people around 200 BC and reached its zenith early in the first millennium.  It had a population of from 100,000 to 200,000 people. The Avenue of the Dead is lined with ceremonial architecture, as seen here from the Pyramid of the Moon.

Most of what we infer about the culture at Teotihuacan comes from the murals that adorn the site and from hieroglyphic inscriptions made by the Maya. The creation of murals reached its height between 450 and 650 AD. The painters' artistry was unrivaled in Mesoamerica.

The Pyramid of the Moon reaches the same height as the Pyramid of the Sun.  Temples were built on top of the ceremonial platforms. 

The decline of Teotihuacan is associated with the droughts of the 6th and 7th centuries.  There are ongoing archaeological investigations on the 11 square mile site. 

The style of the masonry used in reconstruction is not a copy of the original.

The second civilization that developed in central Mexico was the Aztec.  Much more is known of these people, the Mexica, because of the survival of their codices, Spanish accounts and archaeology.  In 1325, they founded their city, Tenochtitlan, on an island in Lake Texcoco fulfilling an ancient prophecy.  The city grew to 200,000+ and in the ceremonial center, their Templo Mayor was rebuilt in its sacred location seven times.  The Spanish demolished the city’s center.  It was rediscovered when the metro was being built in the 1970’s.  Archeological investigation continues.

The Aztec Sun Stone told the history of the Aztecs.  It weighs 24 tons and was located half way up the temple.

Coatlicue, “she with a skirt of serpents”, was the mother to 400 gods.  She became pregnant with the all-powerful sun god, Huitzilopochtli, when she put hummingbird feathers in her bosom.  This made her children unhappy.  

As her daughter Coyolxauhqui was about to behead Coatlicue for this, her unborn son sprang from her side in full armor and dismembered his sister.  Coyolxauhqui’s body fell down the hill and the 8 ton sculpture from the Templo Mayor illustrates this.

Huitzilopochtli threw Coyolxauhqui’s head into the sky, along with his other siblings, and she became the Goddess of the Moon.

Outside the Museo Nacional de Antropologia and near the Aztec’s former ceremonial center, modern day dancers and “priests” keep the Aztec culture alive.