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Pyramid of the Sun

Pyramid of the Sun
Front view of the Pyramid of the Sun
Location Mexico State
Region Mesoamerica
Type Pyramid, Temple
Part of Teotihuacan
Length 220 meters (720 feet)[1]
Width 230 meters (760 feet)[2]
Volume 1,184,828.3 cubic meters (41,841,817 cubic feet)
Height 65.5 meters (216 feet)[3]
Founded 200 CE[4]
Abandoned 750 CE [5]
Periods Mesoamerican classic
Cultures Teotihuacan
Site notes
Condition Protect by UNESCO
Ownership Cultural heritage
Management World Heritage Committee
Public access Yes
Third largest ancient pyramid in the world, the second largest is the Pyramid of Giza and the largest is the Great Pyramid of Cholula which is 90 kilometers away

The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest building in Teotihuacan and one of the largest in Mesoamerica. Found along the Avenue of the Dead, in between the Pyramid of the Moon and the Ciudadela, and in the shadow of the massive mountain Cerro Gordo, the pyramid is part of a large complex in the heart of the city.


  • History 1
  • Structure measurements, location and orientation 2
  • Recovered artifacts 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6


The name Pyramid of the Sun comes from the Aztecs, who visited the city of Teotihuacan centuries after it was abandoned; the name given to the pyramid by the Teotihuacanos is unknown. It was constructed in two phases. The first construction stage, around 100 C.E., brought the pyramid to nearly the size it is today. The second round of construction resulted in its completed size of 224.942 meters (738 feet) across and 75 meters (246 feet) high, making it the third largest pyramid in the world,[6] though still just over half the height of the Great Pyramid of Giza (146 metres). The second phase also saw the construction of an altar atop of the pyramid, which has not survived into modern times. The Adosada platform was added to the pyramid in the early third century, at around the same time that the Ciudadela and Temple of the Feathered Serpent, Teotihuacan Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent were constructed.

Over the structure the ancient Teotihuacanos finished their pyramid with lime plaster imported from surrounding areas, on which they painted brilliantly colored murals. While the pyramid has endured for centuries, the paint and plaster have not and are no longer visible. Jaguar heads and paws, stars, and snake rattles are among the few images associated with the pyramids.

It is thought that the pyramid venerated a deity within Teotihuacan society, however, little evidence exists to support this hypothesis. The destruction of the temple on top of the pyramid, by both deliberate and natural forces prior to the archaeological study of the site, has so far prevented identification of the pyramid with any particular deity.

Structure measurements, location and orientation

Dimension[7] Value
Height 71.17 metres or 233.5 feet
Base perimeter 794.79 square metres or 8,555.0 square feet
Side 223.48 metres or 733.2 feet
1/2 side 111.74 metres or 366.6 feet
Angle of slope 32.494 degrees
Lateral surface area 59,213.68 square metres or 637,370.7 square feet (assumes perfect square base and smooth faces)
Volume 1,184,828.31 cubic metres or 41,841,817 cubic feet (assumes perfect square base and smooth faces)
A model of the pyramid

The orientation of the structure may hold some anthropological significance. The pyramid is oriented slightly northwest of the horizon point of the setting sun on two days a year, August 12 and April 29, which are about one divinatory calendar year apart for the Teotihuacanos. The day of August 12 is significant because it would have marked the date of the beginning of the present era and the initial day of the Maya long-count calendar. In addition, many important astrological events can be viewed from the location of the pyramid that are important in terms of both agriculture and belief systems of the ancient society.

The pyramid was built over a man-made tunnel leading to a "cave" located six metres(meters) down beneath the centre(center) of the structure. Originally this was believed to be a naturally formed lava tube cave and interpreted as possibly the place of Chicomoztoc, the place of human origin according to Nahua legends. More recent excavations have suggested that the space is man-made and could have served as a royal tomb.[8] Recently scientists have used muon detectors to try to find other chambers within the interior of the pyramid, but substantial looting has prevented the discovery of a function for the chambers in Teotihuacan society.

Recovered artifacts

Comparison of approximate profiles of Pyramid of the Sun with some notable pyramidal or near-pyramidal buildings. Dotted lines indicate original heights, where data is available.

Only a few caches of artifacts have been found in and around the pyramid. Obsidian arrowheads and human figurines have been discovered inside the pyramid and similar objects have been found at the nearby Pyramid of the Moon and Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent in the Ciudadela. These objects may have represented sacrificial victims. A unique historical artifact discovered near the foot of the pyramid at the end of the nineteenth century was the Teotihuacan Ocelot, which is now in the British Museum's collection.[9] In addition, burial sites of children have been found in excavations at the corners of the pyramid. It is believed that these burials were part of a sacrificial ritual dedicating the building of the pyramid. In 2004, twelve bodies were found buried a vault in the pyramid, ten of them decapitated, along with the remains of several animals and other apparent sacrifices.[10]

See also


  1. ^ "Teotihuacán." Britannica School. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2014. Web. 9 Dec. 2014.
  2. ^ "Teotihuacán." Britannica School. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2014. Web. 9 Dec. 2014.
  3. ^ "Teotihuacán." Britannica School. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2014. Web. 9 Dec. 2014.
  4. ^ "Teotihuacán." Early Civilizations in the Americas Reference Library. Ed. Sonia G. Benson, Sarah Hermsen, and Deborah J. Baker. Vol. 2: Almanac, Vol. 2. Detroit: UXL, 2005. 315-332. Student Resources in Context. Web. 14 Dec. 2014.
  5. ^ "Teotihuacán." Britannica School. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2014. Web. 9 Dec. 2014.
  6. ^  
  7. ^ Reynolds, Mark (1999). "A Comparative Geometric Analysis of the Heights and Bases of the Great Pyramid of Khufu and the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan". Nexus Network Journal (Kim Williams Books) 1: 87–92. Archived from the original on 11 August 2006. 
  8. ^ Šprajc, Ivan (2000). "Astronomical Alignments at Teotihuacan, Mexico". Latin American Antiquity 11 (4). p. 410. 
  9. ^ British Museum Highlights
  10. ^ "Grisly Sacrifices Found in Pyramid of the Moon". Retrieved 2015-07-21. 

Further reading

  • Evans, Susan Toby (2004). Ancient Mexico and Central America. 
  • Gwin, Peter (Feb 2005). "Seeing Through Walls".  
  • Šprajc, Ivan (2000). "Astronomical Alignments at Teotihuacan, Mexico". Latin American Antiquity 11 (4). pp. 403–415. 
  • Sugiyama, Saburo (2005). "Governance and Polity at Classic Teotihuacan". Mesoamerican Archaeology. 

Panoramic view of the Pyramid of the Sun
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