Pyramid of the Sun

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For the Maserati album, see Pyramid of the Sun (album).
Pyramid of the Sun
Pyramid of the Sun (8264562878).jpg
Location Mexico State
Region Mesoamerica
Type Pyramid, Temple
Part of Teotihuacan
Length 720 feet (220 meters)[1]
Width 760 feet (230 meters)[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 abandoned
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
Pyramid of the Sun

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.


Ciudadela - Blick zur Sonnenpyramide.jpg

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 A.D., brought the pyramid to nearly the size it is today. The second round of construction resulted in its completed size of 738 feet (224.942 meters) across and 246 feet (75 meters) high, making it the third largest pyramid in the world,[6] but being much shorter than 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[edit]

Dimension[7] Value
Height 233.5 feet or 71.2 metres
Base perimeter 8,555 square feet or 794.8 square metres
Side 733.2 feet or 223.5 metres
1/2 side 366.6 feet or 111.7 metres
Angle of slope 32.494 degrees
Lateral surface area 637,370.76 square feet or 59,213.681 square metres (assumes perfect square base and smooth faces)
Volume 41,841,817 cubic feet or 1,184,828.3 cubic metres (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 down beneath the centre 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.Šprajc, Ivan (2000). "Astronomical Alignments at Teotihuacan, Mexico". Latin American Antiquity 11 (4). p. 410.  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[edit]

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.[8] 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. Just recently[when?] a man's body was found buried in the Moon Pyramid. The man was apparently buried alive with art, gold and sacrifices for the gods.

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Aston, Michael; Tim Taylor (1998). Atlas of Archaeology. Dorling Kindersley. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-7894-3189-9. 
  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. ^ British Museum Highlights [1]

Further reading[edit]

  • Evans, Susan Toby (2004). Ancient Mexico and Central America. 
  • Gwin, Peter (Feb 2005). "Seeing Through Walls". National Geographic. 
  • 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. 

Coordinates: 19°41′33″N 98°50′38″W / 19.6925°N 98.8438°W / 19.6925; -98.8438