Historical sites

THE IMPORTANCE OF EXPERIENCES

Each of us is the result of our own experiences and this is even more true for traveller who go around the world to know populations, cultures and traditions very different from those in which they were born.
Traveling with eyes, mind and heart opened, we could learn and get better.
In this case, however, I speak of experiences because visiting a lot of places around the world, we have also several parameters of comparison.

 

Earth map with place visited on my travels Matteo cosmorevas.tk

 

Visiting one place before another influences our perception of beauty and wonder.
You should perhaps see the most beautiful places after other trips but this is not always possible.
We cannot say that one place is more amazing that another without having seen it…

Another parameter of comparison (for me and many others, maybe not for everyone) is the amount you spend.
I talked with some people who went to Machu Picchu on their honeymoon.
This is a decisive factor: is different if you have a fully paid trip or have to pay as little as possible and what you considered “the correct price”.

BEAUTIFUL BUT…

This anticipation was necessary to understand why for me is difficult to talk about Machu Picchu, the place that left me with the most deep sense of disappointment.

Maybe I should think in an objective way, imagining that I went to Machu Picchu for free and without having seen other wonders of the world (official or considered by myself), but the web is full of similar stories.
I only tell what I saw and the emotions I felt. Neither right nor wrong but real and sincere.

My previous experiences have a great influence on the following considerations.
Peru was not the first trip I have made and having seen before the Mayan cities (Palenque and Yaxchilan), the Aztec city of Teotihuacan and the Temples of Angkor, make me disappointed in front of Machu Picchu.

Beautiful but… I’ve been to… here instead…

 

statues and sign Welcome to Machu Picchu - village of Aguas Calientes - Peru

 

Another factor that makes me totally negative about the Machu Picchu’s site (in this case not about the site itself but to its surroundings) is the absurd and crazy amount that one have to pay.
Many times I asked myself if I did something wrong but I could have saved a bit of money only with a huge physical effort (possible but I also had to consider that this was the final part of my one-month trip in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and Peru, with a temperature change of 70°C and an altitude difference of about 6,000 meters).

I’ll explain all the details soon but I anticipate that going to Machu Picchu costs about USD 450..

Nice but… here I paid… there instead…

 

HISTORY

Machu Picchu, in native Quechua language Machu Pikchu, “old mountain”, is the 3,082 meters high mountain where the Incas built the city.
Over the years, the name was also associated with the archaeological site.
World Heritage Site and one of the seven wonders of the modern world, is universally known for its scenic location, embedded between the peaks of the Urubamba River valley.

 

Peru - landscape of Machu Picchu from the archaeological site

 

The city, or perhaps only the summer residence of the emperor and the Inca nobility, should have been built around the year 1440 and inhabited until the Spanish conquest in 1532 by a permanent population of about 300 people, with a peak of 1,000 when the emperor went.
It was never abandoned or forgotten, but occasionally inhabited by a few indigenous who used the agricultural terraces and the complex water channels.

On July 24, 1911 the american Hiram Bingham arrived at the top of the mountain and was impressed by what he saw.

 

Peru - landscape from the top of Machu Picchu Mountain

 

Realizing at once the historical importance of those ruins, he carried out international excavations and publications, with the support of the Peruvian government, Yale University and National Geographic.

In a few years Machu Picchu became the main tourist destination in Peru.

 

HOW TO GET

Cusco

The first stop is to arrive in the city of Cusco.
There are at least two ways, depending on the departure and the time available.
The airport of Cusco is connected to the capital Lima with numerous daily flights and the prices are very low. It may be the best solution if you have limited days and arrive in Lima with international flights (from Europe or, usually, from Mexico City, Santiago de Chile, Bogota or Buenos Aires).

Otherwise you can get to Cusco by bus. I recommend this if you are coming from the south (for example Nasca or Arequipa) or from Bolivia (better if after a day stop in Puno to see the tourist floating villages on Lake Titicaca).
The best quality/price solution should be the Cruz del Sur company.

 

Peru - bus Cruz del Sur

 

I used it for some trips and the buses are very clean and immaculate.
The seats on the 1st floor (semi-cama), even if the seats are lowered a little less, they still allow you to sleep peacefully.
Thinking about the comfort of reclining the seat 170°, I chose the ticket for the upper floor. But, like everything else, respect is always needed.
It’s nice stay almost like in a bed, but it means that the person behind will not be able to move because the front seat will rest on his/her knees.
I spent an entire 13-hour journey fighting with the “enemy” of the seat in front of me: he would slam the seat on my knees to tilt it to the maximum and I stopped him with punches and kicks in the backrest and headrest.
Imagine how relaxing this trip was…

 

From Cusco to Aguas Calientes

Once in Cusco you have to find a way to get to Aguas Calientes, the small village that seems to have been created only to take all money of those who go to Machu Picchu.

To make it simple, there are 4 solutions:

1. Gipsy Trip: from the square of Cusco leave the colectivos (shared vans, classic means of transport throughout South America) to Hidroelectrica. The cost of this trip is about USD 10.
From Hidroelectica you walk for about 30 km until the village of Aguas Calientes.

 

Peru - Sacred Inca Valley seen from the train Perurail Cusco Ollantaytambo Aguas Calientes Machu Picchu

 

2. Perurail train: the easiest but obviously also the most expensive solution is the direct connection, crossing the landscapes of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
The trains have large panoramic windows, comfortable seats and include a free snack and drink.
A few months before departure I thought it was impossible that the train ticket cost USD 180 (round trip) and I decided to wait and found a better solution in Cusco.
Instead there the price had gone up around USD 300.

 

Peru - Perurail train to Machu Picchu at Ollantaytambo station

 

3. Middle way: I didn’t want to pay it USD 300 but I was also too tired to think of doing 60 km with my backpack, so I chose the classic “middle way”.
I took a colectivos from Cusco to the intermediate railway station of Ollantaytambo, and from there the Perurail train to Aguas Calientes. I booked a last minute ticket for about USD 110 one way.

4. Inca Trail: considered one of the most beautiful treks in the world, it usually takes 4 or 5 days.
Tickets are limited to 500 people, of which about 300 are local guides (required).
The old 43 km long mountain trail links the Inca archaeological sites of Runcuracay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Winay Wayna and Machu Picchu.
Prices range from USD 650 to USD 1,500 depending on the duration and comfort required.

 

Peru - cosmorevas Inca Trail Machu Picchu map

 

SITE ENTRANCE TICKET

The Government of Peru often varies the conditions and times of access (it has tried to impose stricter time slots and shorter stay times). Per quanto io cerchi di tenere sempre queste informazioni aggiornate, è meglio fare le verifiche al momento opportuno.

The official website to buy tickets directly is www.machupicchu.gob.pe.
Choose with the most attention the date and time of entry because access is very fiscal and punctual.
Theoretically the stay at the site is not infinite but the times are limited in according to the ticket bought. No one will look to throw you out, but if you are at fault (but do it anyway) avoid to attract the attention of the guardians for incorrect or forbidden behaviour acts. Per esempio, pur se li ritengo For example, even if I consider them absurd and shameful, it’s forbidden to enter with backpacks or bags larger than 40x35x20 cm, bring food or drinks that have not been purchased on the site and have trekking sticks, umbrellas, camera tripods or smartphone holders.

There are 3 types of ticket:
– Machu Picchu: 2.300 places per day, entrance limited to the Inca city, cost about USD 60..
Places are limited to 800 accesses from 6am to 9am, 600 from 9am to 12, 360 from 12am to 1pm and 540 from 1pm to 2pm.
Theoretically you can stay in the site 4 hours from the moment of entry but there are not checks about it.

– Machu Picchu + Mountain: 400 places per day, including a visit to the Inca city and trekking on Machu Picchu Mountain, cost about USD 80 (discounts for children, students and citizens of Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador).
There are 3 times available: 100 places to enter Machu Picchu from 06am and start trekking on the Mountain from 07am to 08am, 100 places to enter the Mountain at the same time but in the city only after the trekking, and the last 200 tickets to enter Machu Picchu from 08am and the Mountain from 09am to 10am
You could stay on the site for a maximum of 8 hours, while the return from the Mountain must take place before 1pm.
I chose to book this ticket as “the middle way”: entering only the archaeological site seemed reductive to me, the Inca Trail was instead excessive and this mountain is higher than Huayna Picchu and therefore more panoramic.

The climb to Machu Picchu Mountain was very hard and tiring.
I had read that it takes 2-4 hours to reach the top and go down.
I tell that after more than 2 hours of climb on the steep path, among irregular dirt tracks and narrow steps, in the middle of the jungle and with the fauna represented mainly by mosquitoes and gnats, I decided to stop and come down.
This is also because, beyond the physical and mental effort, climbing the mountain was very boring.
As you climb the landscape is always the same, only seen from a greater height. I would have climbed to the top to see a totally different landscape, but to see the same I’ve not found a good reason.
It is obviously a subjective thought but, while relaxing on the stairs, I talked with other “climbers” and nobody found a motivation to climb to the top.
We all started off excited but, who first and who later, we gave up, evaluating the excessive effort compared to the achievable result.

 

Peru - stairs to Machu Picchu Mountain

 

– Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu: 400 places per day, including a visit to the Inca city and trekking on the Machu Picchu Mountain, cost about USD 80.
There are 3 times available: 100 places to enter Machu Picchu from 06am and start the trek from 07am to 08am, 100 places to enter the same time in Huayna Picchu but in the city only after the trek, and last 200 tickets to enter Machu Picchu from 08am and Huayna Picchu from 10am to 11am.
You could stay a total of 6 hours but the excursion to Huayna Picchu takes about 3 hours.

Huayna Picchu is the “young mountain”, 2693 meters high, famous for appearing behind the archaeological site in classic panoramic photos.
The ascent takes place on a narrow, steep, zigzag path, with sections where the stairs are directly carved into the rock.
This trek is not recommended for those who suffer from vertigo because its precipices and access is only allowed to +12 years.
You should reach the top in about 1 hour, but I haven’t climbed it so cannot confirm this information.

 

Peru - landscape of Huayna Picchu Mountain and the Andes Mountain from Machu Picchu Mountain

 

THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE

Let’s take a closer look at the archaeological site of Machu Picchu.
The royal Inca city of Machu Picchu is located in the Andes Mountains, between the prominent peaks of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu, on a high mountain ridge with steep precipices as far as the Urubamba River and near the springs of the Amazon River. It’s also located in a highly seismic region, constantly affected by strong earthquakes and subject to heavy rainfall throughout the year.

Despite this, the city is still intact, demonstrating the high technical and scientific knowledge of the Inca civilization, which hadn’t written language and didn’t know the wheel or the iron.

The complex is divided into two large areas: the urban area and the agricultural area, separated by large squares.
The site is, however, largely to be deciphered, the names and functions of the structures are hypothetical and still under investigation.

Peru - landscape of Machu Picchu Square and Huayna Picchu Mountain with Andes Mountain

The urban area

Houses were built here and civil and religious activities were also done.
The Temple of the Sun is one of the best examples of organic Inca architecture and the only circular building in Machu Picchu.
In the lower part there are symbols and steps, inside a sculpture and niches used for ceremonial purposes related to the cult of the dead.
In the upper part, a large sculpted rock served as an altar while the windows were used for observing astronomical events.
For a Sardinian it’s immediate to associate it, both in shape and use, with a nuraghe.

Under the Temple of the Sun, almost hidden, there is a natural stone cave known as the royal tomb because some scientists suppose that it was the mausoleum of the Inca emperor Pachacutec.

 

Peru - Machu Picchu - Temple of the Sun

 

The capanna del custode is one of the few renovated buildings.
Its high thatched roof is the most accepted hypothesis of how the original roofs of the houses were.

 

 

Peru - caretaker's hut Machu Picchu

 

The agricultural area

The secret of its longevity is the drainage system.
The urban area has 129 canals that prevent landslides and erosion, canalising all the water to the agricultural area of the city and to the spring area, providing a perennial spring of water.
Here the foundations of the agricultural terraces have been built with stone retaining walls, a thick layer of surface soil and, deep down, larger stones, gravel and chiselled stone shavings.

 

Peru - agricultural terraces Machu Picchu

 

This perfect engineering work ensured the necessary drainage to prevent rainwater stagnation and erosion of the hills.
There was no irrigation system on the terraces because the Incas considered rain to be sufficient for this purpose.

 

Peru - Machu Picchu - into the city

 

EXPENSES SUMMARY

In this computation I prefer to omit the costs, too variable and subjective, to arrive from any place in the world to the city of Cusco. So I focus on how to reach Machu Picchu from Cusco.

Cusco: the city certainly deserves a few days dedicated but, beyond that, it’s better to sleep here after visiting the archaeological site. You could still stay in Aguas Calientes but, as said, there the costs are much higher while in Cusco you can find a bed for USD 5.

Train: the price varies depending on the travel period, the booking date (I booked the last day in Cusco because I didn’t think that the prices seen online were real) and the departure station.
In general you have to pay about USD 150 from Cusco to Aguas Calientes and USD 100 from the intermediate station of Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes.
So USD 300 or USD 200 round trip.

 

Peru - Ollantaytambo Station

 

Colectivos: the alternative to the train is to use the colectivos (vans with which you share the trip with other people) to reach the town of Hidroelectrica in about 7 hours and from there continue on foot along the railway tracks for almost 15 kilometres until you reach Aguas Calientes.
The colectivos can also be used for the Cusco – Ollantaytambo route.
In both cases the amount is around USD 5 or 10.

Aguas Calientes: you must sleep here at least one night and it’s difficult to find accommodation for less than USD 20.
Everything (souvenirs, drinks or simple empanadas) is at least three times more expensive than what you would pay in Cusco. So get organized in advance so as not to leave crazy amounts at the market or in a restaurant.

 

Peru - city of Aguas Calientes base to go to Machu Picchu

 

Bus: access to the site at 06am implies a wake-up call well before the sunrise, in order to be at the bus stop at least at 03.30am An excessive delay means having to queue for kilometres which, just seeing it, could make you burst into a desperate neurotic cry.
Buses leave from Aguas Calientes from 05.30am to 3.30pm and come back until 5.45pm.
The cost of the ticket is about USD 20 round trip.
The alternative is of course a 10 km walk. I have heard that it takes at least 2 hours, also considering that the climb is long and the buses have no regard to run raising dirt and dust.

 

Peru - Machu Picchu - Aguas Calientes bus queue

 

Access ticket: as I explained before (and waiting for updates) the price ranges from about USD 60 to USD 80.

Guide: when I went, the guide was optional. Now it would seem obligatory at a cost of USD 75.
However, it seems that you can still access the site without paying this additional fee.

To recapitulate, we can therefore consider 4 price ranges:

1. Gipsy experience : USD 100 ( + about 80 km on foot)
colectivos Cusco – Hidroelectrica + 30 km walk to Aguas Calientes + walk up to Machu Picchu + entrance to the site + return in the same way.

2. Expensive comfort: USD 450
night in Cusco + colectivos Cusco – Ollantaytambo + train Ollantaytambo – Aguas Calientes + night in Aguas Calientes + bus to Machu Picchu + entrance to the site + return in the same way + various expenses.

3. Inca Trail: from USD 650 to USD 1.500
according to the durability and comfort required.

4. Business class: ∞
as someone said, “to infinity and beyond”.

 

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

Is it worth going to Machu Picchu?
Yes, of course! Despite all the negative notes I mentioned, it’s a place to see.
Machu Picchu is still a historic place, one of those destinations that represents a point of arrival.
What makes it unique is the place itself, a city built on top of a mountain, surrounded by the Peruvian Andes mountain.
Its beauty can be elevated by the mystical and mysterious atmosphere that creates clouds, fog and sun.
It’s probably a destination more for tourists than for travellers, but it’s a place where each of us, once in our lives, should go.

 

Peru - landscape from Machu Picchu Mountain

 

 

 

Peru - light in Machu Picchu

MAYA CIVILIZATION

HISTORY AND AGRICULTURE

I’m Sardinian, descendant of the Shardana warriors, people of the sea that nobody has ever known how to fight and nobody defeated them.
That’s why ancient civilizations have always fascinated me and my trip to Mexico could only include a few days to dedicate to them.

I had seen many photos of these places, but being there was a great emotion, a point of arrival.
Previously I had already seen the Great Wall but they are too different, not comparable works.
But I can do it with similar sites: the Aztec city of Teotihuacan, near Mexico City, is equally beautiful.
The Temples of Angkor, Cambodia, are what most amazed me in all my travels.
I know to be one of the very few people in the world to think that, compared to the world heritage just mentioned, for me Machu Picchu is one of the most disappointing and overrated places.

But let’s go in order:

Archaeologists believe that the appearance of the Mayan civilization dates about back to 2500 BC.
Over the centuries they have become phenomenal astronomers, studying perfectly the movements of stars and planets.
They used these discoveries in agriculture, following the rain and crop cycles.
And this knowledge is still use in Chiapas by indigenous peoples and Zapatista communities.

THE MAYA CALENDAR

The Mayans were among the first in Mesoamerica to write with a logosyllabic alphabet and still leave scientists marvel because their sophisticated and complex astronomical calendars.
The calculations were so perfect that they are still more precise than we currently use.
In fact, the Earth makes a complete turn around the Sun in 365.242189 days.
For the Mayans, one year lasted 365.242036 days while in our gregorian calendar 365.2425 days are considered.

 

Mayan-calendar

 

The Mayans used 3 intersecting calendars:
– the religious calendar (tzolkin): it combined 13 numbers with 20 names, thus creating a period of 260 days,
– the civil calendar (haab): like ours, composed by 365 days but divided into 18 months with 20 days each, plus 5 “additional” days,
– the long cycle: indicates the number of days since the beginning of the Mayan era and is the most complex system, using a mixed base-20 / base-18 mathematical representation of a number.

I try to explain it.
It consists of kin (1 day), uinal (1 = 20 kin), tun (1 = 18 uinal = 360 days), katun (1 = 20 tun = 7200 days, about 20 years), baktun (1 = 20 katun = 144,000 days, approximately 394 years)

Kin, tun e katun are numbered from 0 to 19, uinal from 0 to 17.
On the numbering of baktun, there are different opinions.
There are those who limit it to 13 and from this was the theory that the Maya considered December 21, 2012 as the date of the end of the world.
According to the Mayan calendar, that date would have been 12.19.19.17.19 i.e. 12 baktun, 19 katun, 19 tun, 17 uinal, 19 kin.
The next day it therefore became 0.0.0.0.0 or 13.0.0.0.0
Other scientists instead consider the limit of the baktuns at 19 and in this case the day 19.19.19.17.19 of the long cycle will be in the year 4772.

According to these calculations, the day 0 of the Maya, or better the day 0.0.0.0.0, would be August 13, 3114 BC.

 

ASTRONOMY

The Mayan world revolved around a celestial map.
The cities were built in such a way that the buildings allowed observation of the sun, moon, planets and constellations.
Some astronomical object are visible exactly in the center of a window during an eclipse.
The day of the equinox of spring and autumn Sun creates a play of light and shadow that draws the image of the Serpent God moving along the stairs of the temple.

 

Mexico-ceiba-tree

 

The ceiba was the sacred tree that united the 13 heavens, the Earth and the 9 levels of the realm of the dead.
This large structure operated according to the laws of astrology and the worship of ancestors.
Another fundamental aspect for the Maya were cardinal points: east (the most important because it indicates the sunrise and was represented with the red color), west (on the contrary indicates the sun that disappears and is therefore represented with black), north (from there the rains come, color white) and south (yellow like the southern sun).

 

GAMES AND SACRIFICES

An area dedicated to the “ball game” is clearly identifiable in all Mesoamerican cities.
It can’t be called football, but maybe it looked a lot like it.

 

Mexico-Mayan-city-pelota-game

 

Often it had a real religious meaning: the result decided some choices.
It is also almost certain that at the end of the game one or more players were offered as sacrifices to the gods.
In all cities there were one or more playgrounds.

 

Mexico-City-Maya-Yaxchilan

 

DISCOVERING MAYAN CITIES

The Mayan citieshave left me speechless.
They built imposing cities thanks to the abundant lime stone available.
The rulers built increasingly majestic temples, giant pyramidal structures dominated by a thatched roof building.

 

Mexico-Palenque

Some buildings are funerary monuments, inside which there were the tombs of the great Mayan rulers.
I didn’t expect such large and perfectly organized cities.
This not only for the beauty of the buildings, but for the nature that surrounds, hides and protects them.

 

Mexico-Palenque

 

PALENQUE

A few hours by car from San Cristóbal de Las Casas, the archaeological site of Palenque, in Chiapas, was the first one I saw and perhaps this is also why I’m am very tied to it.

 

Mexico-Palenque

 

The Mayan city is immersed in the jungle and many of the buildings are still hidden under tropical vegetation.
This doesn’t decrease the splendor we see, but gives a more mysterious and fascinating tone.
You have to stay at least 2 hours to visit it well.

Mexico-Palenque

 

Mexico-Palenque

Palenque was together with Tikal and Calakmul one of the most powerful city-states of the Maya, connected to others through commercial exchange networks or alliances between groups of sovereigns.

The old name of Palenque was Lakamba “place of the great waters“.
In the area there are in fact 56 springs and 9 independent streams, with waterfalls on the slopes of the urban plateau.

 

Mexico-City-Maya-Palenque

 

The Mayans knew how to manage water resources: they had underground aqueducts for residential areas and agricultural activities and prevented collapses and erosion thanks to the construction of canals and bridges.

Obviously, sacrifices to their deities were widespread.
Over a hundred ceramic urns containing resin, shells, food, but also blood and human and animal remains have been found.

 

Mexico-City-Maya-Palenque

 

Mexico-City-Maya-Palenque

 

YAXCHILAN

On the border with Guatemala he archaeological site of Yaxchilan stands instead.
You can get here only by sailing the historic Usumacinta River, the longest and most flowable river in Central America.

 

Chiapas - Mexico - Usumacinta River

 

Chiapas - Mexico - Yaxchilan

 

Mexico-Yaxchilan-ruins

 

Fruit of over 400 years of activity, in an environment characterized by a great biodiversity and the presence of the Usumacinta river, Yaxchilan became a powerful city with about 120 buildings in its central area, distributed between the lower part and parallel to the river and the limestone hills that rise to the south.

Yaxchilan and other Mayan cities in the Usumacinta Province built their temples with large ceilings supported by walls and decorated with wall paintings.
Based on the ceramic materials, architecture and hieroglyphic inscriptions, it has been defined that the city was inhabited since 250 AD to 900 AD, a period in which the entire Mayan civilization collapsed.

The buildings, which seen the hillside location made use of stairs, ramps and distribution terraces, were almost all red, unfortunately now invisible color today.

 

Mexico-Yaxchilan-ruins

 

Mexico-Yaxchilan-ruins

 

These areas are obviously the natural habitat of many animals.

 

Chiapas - Mexico - Monkey in Yaxchilan

 

 

monkey-mexico-yaxchilan

 

Tucano-Mexico-Yaxchilan-Maya

 

crocodile-mexico-yaxchilan

 

TULUM

Its strategic position made Tulum the hub of trade by sea, river and land.
Walls were also built to control local activities and to divide the upper classes from the common people who lived outside.
The facades of the buildings had bright colors and the city, overlooking the Caribbean Sea, was certainly wonderful.

 

Mexico-Tulum-castle

 

This area of Mexico, the Yucatàn Peninsula, emerged only 2 million years ago.
Its surface is calcareous and the action of water gives life to cenotes and caves.

In front of the city of Tulum, in the depths of the Caribbean Sea, there is the coral reef, currently the second in the world in size.

The Mayans from Tulum used the sea as their main source of livelihood, as food and to obtain work tools, utensils, ornamental and sacrificial objects.
They too, however, like the Mayans from Palenque and Yaxchilan, exploited agriculture by growing corn, beans, pumpkins, chillies, tomatoes and fruit and also hunted in the forest.

 

Mexico-City-Maya-Tulum

 

When the Spanish arrived, a cultural fusion began which led to the rapid sunset of the Mayan city of Tulum.
The site is the one I liked least because is impossible to go close to the buildings because of the too high number of tourists, especially from the resorts of Cancun and the Riviera Maya.

 

Mexico-Tulum ruins

 

Even the small beach below was so crowded to make activities or rest impossible.

 

Mexico-City-Maya-Tulum

 

After the visit to the archaeological site and a dip in the water I preferred to move to quieter and more isolated beaches.

 

Mexico-Tulum-sea

 

 

HISTORY OF THE CITY

About 2400 years ago, the Valley of Teotihuacan was occupied by various rural communities with a population of approximately 5,000 inhabitants.
Toward 200 b.C., part of the population from the Southern Basin of México, immigrates to the north of Lake Texcoco and formed a new population center, giving rise to the first planned urban settlement in Mesoamerica.

Mexico - Teotihuacan

 

Mexico - Teotihuacan

During the following phases of the development of the city, a sophisticated level of urbanization was reached as demonstrated by an urban plan with streets and blocks, dominated by two large perpendicular roadways running through them: the Avenue of the Dead and the East-West Avenue. Likewise, the city had a drainage and a sewage system in the residential units, buildings and public squares.
Its architectural style was characterized by slope panels.
The temples and palaces that limit the Avenue of the Dead were the political-administrative and civic-religious areas; while the residential units of the upper classes were located in the surroundings. Ordinary people lived on the suburbs.

At its peak, between 450 to 650 a.C., the city occupied an area of approximately 14,3 sq. mi,, with a population of 175,000 inhabitants. The demographic increase, the economic development, the high level of specialization and an important expansion in the arts and sciences generated great social differences.

The principal element of the government was religion. It dealt with a theocratic society with controlled not only the Valley of Teotihuacan, but the neighboring valleys of the Basing of Mexico as well.

Teotihuacán grew on top of itself during nine centuries, so we could see different levels of constructions which correspond to different stages in the development of the Teotihuacan culture, until its fall around 700-750 A.D..
After the city was abandoned and until the arrival of the Spanish, various cultural groups, such as the Toltecs and the Aztecs, respected it as a sacred city. Settlements established themselves on the outskirts, reoccupying the residential zones and the spring fed agricultural areas.

The true name of the ancient city is unknown, but the current one is in the Nahuatl language and is due to the Aztecs.

THEY WERE NOT MAYANS OR AZTECS: THEY WERE TEOTIHUACANS

Sometimes, people confuse the pre-Hispanic history and mix information from different times and different places.
So, we think that the Aztecs built Teotihuacan.
But no, they lived in Central Mexico, but so many centuries after this city was abandoned.
Teotihuacan is also not related to the pyramids of Egypt or other distant civilizations.
And also if the origin of its inhabitants and their language are unknown, today they are known simply as Teotihuacans.

THE PYRAMID OF THE SUN

The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest pre-Hispanic building of its time (AD 100-650) and one of the most important in Mesoamerica.

Mexico - Teotihuacan

 

Mexico - Teotihuacan

Its name is due to the fact that, since the sixteenth century, the chronicles mention that this great monument was dedicated to that divinity.
In 1905 Don Leopoldo Batres began his big exploration, by order of Don Porfirio Díaz. The purpose of this was to highlight the cultural greatness of the Mexican people through their pre-Hispanic works and to commemorate, in 1910, the Centenary of the Independence of Mexico.
Archaeological investigations indicate that its construction was carried out in a single operation and demonstrate that its interior is full of sand and country land. The tunnels that can be seen on its sides have been made by various researchers in order to learn about its history and its construction system.

Mexico - Teotihuacan

The top of the pyramid was crowned by a temple where religious activities associated with the divinity to which this building was dedicated were carried out.

This pyramid was the base of a great temple dedicated to a deity whose dedication was the Sun.
A new interpretation proposes that the deity worshiped in this building was Tlatoc, the god of water.

THE PYRAMID OF THE MOON

The Pyramid of the Moon has a rectangular plan, it is 150 meters long on its east-west axis and 130 meters on the north-south, with an actual height of 42 meters.
A protruding body is attached to the front of the pyramid, larger than that of the structure attached to the front of the Pyramid of the Sun and which doesn’t appear to overlap, but is part of the same construction.

Mexico - Teotihuacan

 

Mexico - Teotihuacan

This structure has four staggered bodies with walls on a board slope. On the sides of this superimposed body, there are two large drainage channels limited by sidewalls.
As in the rest of the pyramidal foundations observed in the Archaeological Zone, in the upper part there must have been a temple, which, according to the data of the excavations carried out on the site, seems to have consisted of a single bay divided into three parts.
At its peak, the Pyramid of the Moon was painted red and dedicated to the goddess of water and fertility.

SQUARE OF THE MOON

One of the most important sacred spaces within the city of Teotihuacán is the one that includes the Pyramid of the Moon, its large square, the bases and structures that make up the entire complex.
It is in a strategic position in the entire urban setting, since it is the point where the main axis of the city begins, namely Avenue of the Dead.
Another feature of this area is that it presents an open perspective, unlike those of the Pyramid of the Sun and the Citadel, which are spaces limited by a platform.
In this sense, it is probably a place dedicated to public ceremonies, without restrictions for access to the entire community.
The main square in front of the Pyramid has a quadrangular plan, with a length of 140 meters per side and with the symmetrical position of the buildings on both sides of the axis of the Avenue of the Dead.
In its central part it has a large altar with steps leading to the four directions.

Mexico - Teotihuacan

In front of the Pyramid of the Moon, there is a structure divided internally into five parts, which takes the name of “Teotihuacana Cross” or “Quincunce”.
The Quincunce in Mesoamerica is associated with a cosmological order of long tradition, in which the universe is divided into four regions, each governed by a cardinal point and in the center converge the power of the four corners of the cosmos and the three vertical levels (sky, earth and hell): the navel of the world.

THE AVENUE OF THE DEAD

The Avenue of the Dead is the main street in the city of Teotihuacán.
It has a south-north direction with an orientation of 13°25′ towards the east, compared to the astronomical north.

Mexico - Teotihuacan

Mexico - Teotihuacan

Mexico - Teotihuacan

Its northern end is Square of the Moon and its southern end has not yet been explored.
Exceeds 4 km in length.
Perpendicular to it and the city center, the East-West Avenue divides Teotihuacan into four.
From both streets, the urban structure is carried out in such a way that the streets and the general orientation of all the buildings are parallel and perpendicular to them.

A COSMOPOLITAN CITY

Like many large cities today, Teotihuacan was a multicultural city, it represented a place of great importance in a vast territory, because its political, economic and religious influence reached faraway places.
Likewise, people from different regions come to live here.
Archaeologists have found neighborhoods of Zapotechi (Oaxaca) and groups from the Gulf coast (Veracruz).
Even today Teotihuacan continues to attract people from different parts of the world, because the archaeological area is considered a World Heritage Site.

It is difficult to know for sure which language or languages ​​were spoken in Teotihuacan, there are different ideas about it.
There are those who think it was a variant of Nahuatl, others think that Otomí was spoken, that there were Nahua-Totonac, Mazateco-Popoloca groups or other languages.
However, even if we don’t know it, that demonstrates the cultural richness and linguistic variety that existed in Mesoamerica.
Today dozens of indigenous languages ​​are spoken in Mexico. They have the same value as Spanish and are recognized by the Constitution.
Remember that indigenous languages ​​are real languages!

ASTRONOMY

One way to calculate the time was to observe a ray of sunshine inside a cave.
Several natural caves have been found in Teotihuacán, organized to be dark rooms, where the solar lighting inside them allows you to recognize some astronomically important moments.

Mexico - Teotihuacan

At 270 meters from the Pyramid of the Sun, there is a 4 meter deep cave.
Inside, a small stele was found set vertically in a clay altar. The position and width of the solar beam inside the cave indicate the solstices, the equinoxes and the days when the sun reaches its zenith.

Mexico - Teotihuacan

THE TEOTIHUACAN WRITING

Teotihuacan’s writing represents a language still unknown, since none of its signs has been completely deciphered and we don’t know exactly what his reading order was.
Topics covered in this writing system include dates, high-ranking titles, proper names, names of deities, geographic locations, names of some games or dances and probably short linear texts or arranged in columns separated by red lines.

Before start this travel, crossing the geographical limit of the 80th parallel North was one of the objective of my trip.
Knowing that I could swim in the icy waters of the Arctic Sea at Magdalenfjorden, made this expedition day on the Hurtigruten. Read more

Thinking of reaching North Cape – or Nordkapp – makes us immediately imagine that we are in the most northerly place, beyond which we cannot go.
This could be true if we did not consider some islands and lands covered mainly by glaciers.
But even in this case the name pushes us to error.

If you are in the balustrade near the famous globe’s sculpture and look the sea thinking to find only the infinite sea in front of you, you will be very surprised.

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The name North Cape immediately suggests that reaching it represents a fundamental stop in our life, or at least in the experience of travelers.

Imagining yourself here at the end of the world can be true, even if only in part.

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GEOGRAPHIC AND HISTORICAL INFORMATIONS

In the common imagination, Siberia is always a very cold and inhospitable place.
For this reason, going to Siberia was my objective.

The Siberian region occupies almost 75% of the Russian territory, going from the Urals to the Pacific and from the borders with Mongolia and China to Arctic Ocean.

Read more