Teotihuacan’s Legacy

Anciently, Teotihuacan left a lasting mark on Mesoamerica. In today’s modern world, it receives over a million visitors each year. It certainly has not been forgotten by any means. 

As a young city, Teotihuacan was notable for its exponential growth and meticulous city planning. The monumental architecture of the site shows creativity and consideration for the natural environment of the city. This architectural style became iconic and is still used today in the architecture of the small pueblos surrounding Teotihuacan. 

Impulsed by trade and a desire for the exotic, the giant Central Mexican metropolis extended its reach far beyond the Basin of Mexico. During the city’s lifetime, its influences have been seen along the Gulf Coast of Mexico, farther south at Monte Alban in what is today Oaxaca, down along the Pacific trade corridor of the Soconusco region through Los Horcones, Escuintla and Kaminaljuyu, and at various Classic Maya sites, including Tikal, Copan, Piedras Negras, Aguateca, Dos Pilas, Yaxchilan, and many, many more. 

Tlaloc vase Aztec Mexica Teotihuacan
These two representations of Tlaloc are found at Teotihuacan (left) and Tenochtitlan (right). Click on the image to read more! Images property of Mesoamerican Studies Online.

Even after Teotihuacan’s demise, many Mesoamerican cultures continued to revere and reference its artistic style and culture. Its influence inspired the later Aztec/Mexica culture, who did not enter the Basin of Mexico until the Postclassic period, around 1200-1300 AD. Newcomers to the area, but eager to prove themselves, the Mexica adopted many Teotihuacano art styles and motifs in an effort to legitimize their prowess and presence in the valley. Mexica rulers would make pilgrimages to the ruins of Teotihuacan at important junctions during their reign, and monuments and artifacts were brought from Teotihuacan to the Mexica capital, Tenochtitlan. 

It seems that Teotihuacan was more than a trading partner, possibly even more than a conquering power: its art became the inspiration for multiple militaristic uniforms throughout Mesoamerica, and communicated an ideology of warfare and cosmology that lasted longer than the city itself. Rulers would dress in Teotihuacan style in order to evoke the might and power of this great city, and to stake their claim as inheritors of the city’s greatness. 

You can learn more about Teotihuacan and see pictures, videos and timelines of Teotihuacan in my online course, Experience Teotihuacan!

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