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Early Images of Teotihuacan in the Modern Era

Early Images of Teotihuacan in the Modern Era

by Yolanda Peláez Castellanos

Today, it is very easy to photograph and document the world around us. For example, people visiting Teotihuacan can take countless photos and share them on social media immediately; however, in the past, it was much harder to capture and reproduce images. The lithographs, paintings, and photographs from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century demonstrate the many changes that the archaeological zone of Teotihuacan has undergone. Most of the images here can be found at INAH’s Media Library.

Developed in the late 18th century, lithography is a printing method which has been used to preserve images that explorers saw. In lithography, an image is engraved on a surface (usually limestone), ink is applied, and then the stone is pressed into paper (Tate 2021). This process allowed for a wider distribution of images of sites such as the Teotihuacan pyramids and its scenery during the 19th century.

Figure 1. Pyramid of Teotihuacan, lithograph, ca. 1870, © Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México.
Figure 2. Sun and Moon Pyramids, lithograph, ca. 1870, © Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México.

José María Velasco (1840-1912) was a Mexican painter who accompanied Gumesindo Mendoza in his expeditions to Teotihuacan and portrayed the city’s landscape in his paintings (Google Arts and Culture s.f.). Teotihuacan was abandoned around AD 550, so after some 1,300 years had passed, there was certainly a lot more vegetation covering the monuments for Velasco to capture.

Figure 3. “Sun Pyramid in Teotihuacan,” painting by José María Velasco, 1878,
© Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México.
Figure 4. “Teotihuacan,” painting by José María Velasco, 1878, © Museo Soumaya, Fundación Carlos Slim.

Here are some bonus photographs of the site (way back in the day) for you to enjoy:

Figure 5. Stairs at the Street of the Dead, Desireé Charnay, 1880, ©American Philosophical Society.
Figure 7. Moon Pyramid, ca. 1910-1920,
© Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México.
Figure 6. East view of the Sun (left) and Moon (right) Pyramids, Antonio Peñafiel, 1900, (Peñafiel, 1900).
Figure 8. Moon Pyramid and Street of the Dead before archaeological activities, ca. 1910, © Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México.

The first archaeological work began on site in the early 20th century by Leopoldo Batres to commemorate the centennial of the Mexican War of Independence. Batres was commissioned by President Porfirio Díaz to explore and restore some of Teotihuacan’s monuments. This project included reconstructing the Sun Pyramid, building railway lines, and discovering murals in the Temple of Agriculture (Batres 1993 [1919]).

Figure 9. Workers during reconstruction work, ca. 1910, © Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México.
Figure 11. Leopoldo Batres, Franz Boas, and other members of the Congress of Americanists on a tour of the Teotihuacan archaeological site, ca. 1910, © Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México.
Figure 10. Porfirio Díaz and others eating inside a cave near the archaeological site, ca. 1910, © Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México.
Figure 11. Justo Sierra, Leopoldo Batres, and others during the Congress of Americanists, ca. 1909-1910, © Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México.

Seeing the clothes that people wore back then is a testament to how much time has passed. Indeed, fashion has changed since.

Figure 13. Man next to a Chalchitlicue sculpture, ca. 1910, © Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México.
Figure 14. Woman and girl at the Teotihuacan Museum, ca. 1915, © Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México.

The excavation, restoration, and reconstruction of Teotihuacan continued through the 20th century. The rest of the photographs here likely refer to:

  • The project directed by Manuel Gamio where he carried out a comprehensive study of the population in the Teotihuacan Valley (Gamio 1922). Some of the work his team accomplished include the excavations of the Ciudadela as well as the exploration and restoration of the Feathered Serpent Pyramid and its attached adosada (Figures 15-17).
  • Excavated pits in the Ciudadela and tunnels in the Feathered Serpent Pyramid by José Pérez under the direction of Alfonso Caso (Pérez 1997:488 [1939]) (Figure 18).
  • The Teotihuacan Project directed by Ignacio Bernal, head of the Department of Prehispanic Monuments. Although some of the buildings were excavated to learn more about their history, most of them were reconstructed so they could be restored back to the last occupational phase look (Bernal 1997 [1963]) (Figures 19 and 20).
Figure 15. Portrait of workers from San Juan Teotihuacan, ca. 1915, © Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México.
Figure 17. Reconstruction of the Feathered Serpent Pyramid, 4 May 1921, © Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México.
Figure 19. Men working at the reconstruction site, ca. 1961, © Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México.
Figure 16. Reconstruction at the Ciudadela, ca. 1918-1921, © Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México.
Figure 18. Reconstruction of a building at the Ciudadela, ca. 1930, © Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México.
Figure 20. Men working at the reconstruction of a building along the Steet of the Dead, ca. 1962, © Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México.

These images document how much change Teotihuacan had undergone in the first half of the 20th century. Although several centuries have passed since its occupation during the Classic period, this site continues to be relevant in the construction of our history. To know more about the history of this pre-Hispanic city, you can check the PPCC’s study area section.

References

Bernal, Ignacio
1997[1963] Teotihuacan: descubrimientos y reconstrucciones. In Antología de documentos para la historia de la arqueología de Teotihuacan, compiled by Roberto Gallegos Ruiz, José Roberto Gallegos Téllez Rojo, and Miguel Gabriel Pastrana Flores, pp. 594-615. National Institute of Anthropology and History, Mexico, D.F.

Batres, Leopoldo
1993 [1919] The “Discovery” of the Sun Pyramid. Arqueología Mexicana 2:45-48.

Gamio, Manuel
1922    La población del valle de Teotihuacan, Vol. I, 1. Dirección de Antropología, Secretaría de Agricultura y Fomento, Mexico, D.F.

Google Arts and Culture
s.f.       Teotihuacan. Electronic document, https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/teotihuacan/KgEZFx_-t8JNxQ?hl=es-419, accessed February 23, 2021.

Pérez, José
1997[1939] Informe de los trabajos de Alfonso Caso y José R. Pérez. In Antología de documentos para la historia de la arqueología de Teotihuacan, compiled by Roberto Gallegos Ruiz, José Roberto Gallegos Téllez Rojo, and Miguel Gabriel Pastrana Flores, pp. 488-498. National Institute of Anthropology and History, Mexico, D.F.

Tate
2021 Art Term: Lithography. Electronic document, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/l/lithography, accessed February 24, 2021.

SOCIETY FOR AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGY 86TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE

SOCIETY FOR AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGY 86TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE

Come join us at the Society for American Archaeology’s 2021 conference. This year it will be online and our team members have prepared the following presentations:

APRIL 16

8:30 am EDT – 7:30 am CDT
Ariel Texis Muñoz, Tanya Catignani, Nawa Sugiyama and Saburo Sugiyama—Mapping Teotihuacan’s Inception: Patlachique Phase Ceramics Distribution on the Lidar Map

10:15 am EDT – 9:15 am CDT
Teresa Hsu and Nawa Sugiyama—Playing with Your Food to Feed the Masses: A Zooarchaeological Perspective at Teotihuacan, Mexico

APRIL 17

11:00 am EDT – 10:00 am CDT
Ryohei Takatsuchi, Nawa Sugiyama, Saburo Sugiyama, Tanya Catignani and Yolanda Peláez Castellanos—Spatial Distribution of Ceramics and Lithics at the Plaza of the Columns Complex, Teotihuacan, Mexico

See you all there!

The conference’s final program can be found at the SAA Website.

LECTURE AT COLEGIO NACIONAL

LECTURE AT COLEGIO NACIONAL

Recent Discoveries at Teotihuacan: Excavations at the Plaza of the Columns

Free admission and stream online

As part of a circuit of conferences called “Archaeology Today” (coordinated by Dr. Leonardo López Luján), Dr. Saburo Sugiyama and Dr. Nawa Sugiyama, co-directors of the Project Plaza of the Columns Complex, will present an interesting lecture on the most recent discoveries at Teotihuacan made by their project.

Multiple aspects of Teotihuacan, such as urban planning, new LiDAR maps of the Teotihuacan Valley, the arrival of Maya elites, and the sacrifice of animals, will be revealed to the general public.

Do not miss this opportunity to attend the Colegio Nacional next Wednesday, June 12th, at 6pm. If you can’t make it in person, check out www.colnal.mx to stream online.

Lecture at Phoenix Art Museum

Lecture at Phoenix Art Museum

Due to popular demand, the Phoenix Art Museum added an additional lecture by archaeologist Nawa Sugiyama (Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, George Mason University, and co-director of the Project Plaza of the Columns Complex) who will present a 40-minute lecture on the sacred animals, sacred places, and ritualized landscapes at Teotihuacan.

For more information and to reserve tickets visit www.phxart.org

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