Saturday, March 21, 2020

Hiding in Plain Sight

From Science:
MAYA TRAVELERS visiting Teotihuacan during the fourth century would have encountered a city like no other they had ever seen. Three enormous pyramids loomed over the main street, now known as the Avenue of the Dead, their shapes reflecting snow-capped volcanoes visible in the distance. An orderly grid of roads extended from the avenue, and the city’s 100,000 residents—far more than in even the largest Maya cities of the time—lived in comfortable, standardized apartment complexes. Economic inequality was strikingly low. Depictions of warriors in Teotihuacan’s art, as well as human sacrifices entombed in military regalia, spoke of the city’s military might. Merchants from far-flung places such as Oaxaca to the southeast and the Gulf Coast brought goods for Teotihuacan’s markets, and pilgrims flocked to the city for religious ceremonies. 
Some of those foreigners settled here and set up ethnic enclaves that archaeologists can identify from their foreign household goods and burial practices. “Teotihuacan was a great urban center, almost like Los Angeles or New York City. People from all over Mesoamerica were there,” says Karl Taube, an archaeologist at the University of California (UC), Riverside. 
Teotihuacanos were likely just as fascinated by the Maya area, about 1000 kilometers away in what is now southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras. It lay as far to the east as one could get in Mesoamerica, linking it to the mythologically potent rising Sun. Although the cultures shared staples such as maize, the luxury goods prized in Teotihuacan, such as jade, cacao, and brightly colored quetzal feathers, all came from the tropical jungles of the Maya lowlands. “It was a source of wealth and abundance,” Taube says. When seen from the chilly, high-altitude plain of Teotihuacan, the lush Maya area would have looked like a paradise replete with elegance and luxury. (Read more.)

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