Temple of the Feathered Serpent

After the explosive volcanic eruption of Mt. Popocatépetl located deep southern Mexico, people hurriedly raced for refuge to escape the ash cloud plumed across their skies. When having traveled so far as the Valley of Mexico, an Eden to be settled, it’s here believed the beginnings of Teotihuacán. Teotihuacán, around 100 B.C.E. to mid-Classic era 600 A.D., was at the height of its glory populated by over 200,000 residents. Within its first 200 years, three impressive structures were built and one of these is the Temple of the Feathered Serpent.

The Temple of the Feathered Serpent is located at the south end of the three kilometers long Avenue of the Dead. Upon its construction a ceremony of consecration was entailed involving the sacrificial burial of 200 warriors based on evidence found. Supported by the 260 feathered-serpent heads representative of Quetzalcoatl, the god linked to life and fertility, calendric qualities are associated with this structure as believed each head equating one of the 260-days divinatory calendar. Though now only four of the seven talud-tablero styled tiers remain, the carvings of the sculptures remain what can be described as in fine detail seen. Impressive as the structure is outwardly, such one may find unparalleled to what this temple replicates in idea of the Teotihuacános’ cosmovision.

Aired May 24th, 2016 by Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) this film titled, Secrets of the Dead: Teotihuacán’s Lost Kings documents a discovery made by Sergio Gómez and his workers at the Temple of the Feathered Serpent. What was initially presumed to be a hole developed in the ground by heavy rainfall transformed quickly into discovery when realization came that there was a shaft. Sixty feet below lied a tunnel and its walls were clearly evidenced being man-made when finding a preservation of one worker’s handprint. Using a three-beam laser scanner, this tunnel maps directly to the vertical axis point of the Temple. Wooden tools, chisels and hammers dating 150 A.D., matching the time of its construction, have been excavated in addition to 4,000 jade pieces and unused obsidian blades. Though initially puzzling why three chambers at the end of the tunnel contained fertility statues and not a tomb (provided the grandeur of), a mural in one apartment complex provided a lead to its mystery when illustrating a mountain from which a river flowed out and creation begins. Refining the search for possible clues overlooked was a discovery proving to astound by water lines detected in the lower chambers. Not only did the water lines suggest chambers having been filled as to become an underground lake but sections of the walls still had a coating of pyrite.

The tunnel in essence is a tangible manifestation of their belief how life begins. Pyrite glittering as stars to the slightest light reflected their vision of the cosmos birthed from the underworld. An edition to the temple above, the tunnel allowed the elite to commune with the gods. While entry to the tunnel isn’t open for public as excavations continue from 2013, one can still imagine and appreciate the profoundness of.

Even after Teotihuacán’s collapse the city became the place of legend concerning the cosmos. The Mexica (known as the Aztecs), who encountered the abandoned ruins were in “awe of it” as author, David Stuart, notes in’ Order of Days, believing it was “…where the gods themselves…first manifested” (Stuart, 41). Concerning birth and creation, where men and gods meet, to the Mexica it marked the creation of their world and thus, the beginning of the present era, namely the Fifth Sun.