Teotihuacán was, at its height in the first half of the 1st millennium CE, the largest pre-Columbian city in the Americas. The city was located in what is now the San Juan Teotihuacán municipality approximately 40 km (24.8 mi) northeast of Mexico City. The name Teotihuacán was given by the Nahuatl-speaking Aztec centuries after the fall of the city and has been glossed as “birthplace of the gods”. There is evidence that at least some of the people living in Teotihuacán came from areas influenced by the Teotihuacano civilization, including the Zapotec, Mixtec and Maya peoples. The culture and architecture of Teotihuacán was influenced by the Olmec people, who are considered to be the “mother civilization” of Mesoamerica. The earliest buildings at Teotihuacán date to about 200 BCE, and the largest pyramid, the Pyramid of the Sun, was completed by 100 CE. Today Teotihuacán is one of the most noted archaeological attractions in Mexico.
The city’s broad central avenue, called “Avenue of the Dead” (a translation from its Nahuatl name Miccaotli), is flanked by impressive ceremonial architecture, including the immense Pyramid of the Sun (second largest in the New World after the Great Pyramid of Cholula) and the Pyramid of the Moon. Along the Avenue of the Dead are many smaller talud-tablero platforms. The Aztecs believed they were tombs, inspiring the name of the avenue. Now they are known to be ceremonial platforms that were topped with temples. Further down the Avenue of the Dead is the area known as the Citadel, containing the ruined Temple of the Feathered Serpent. This area was a large plaza surrounded by temples that formed the religious and political center of the city. The name “Citadel” was given to it by the Spanish, who believed it was a fort. Many of the rich and powerful Teotihuacanos lived in Palaces near the temples.