Mexico City is steeped with a rich history, something that most travelers find joy in uncovering. However, what many do not realize is, Mexico City used to be part of a sprawling Aztec city, known as Tenochtitlan. While the majority of the remnants from the city’s Aztec past may now no longer exist, the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan, also known as Templo Mayor, is still able to be explored, and is an incredible way to immerse yourself in this long-ago era.
The Great Pyramid is a four-stepped structure that stands around sixty meters high, and features two shrines at the top. These shrines are dedicated to Tlaloc, the God of fertility and rain, and Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec God of war and sun. However, when the Spanish conquered the region in 1521, the Great Pyramid was destroyed, along with the rest of Aztec civilization. Luckily, the Spanish were not able to remove all traces of it, and its ruins were later excavated for all to see.
A visit to the Great Pyramid is a great way to learn about the ancient customs, beliefs and rituals of the region. While the front of the pyramid may be split by two staircases, each leading to one of the shrines at the top, there is also a gutter that runs down the middle. This is because a sacrificial altar lies at the summit of the pyramid, where human beings used to be sacrificed to the two Gods, after which the gutter would be used to wash away their blood. There are many other aspects to the pyramid that depict Aztec mythology, from the carved round stone that represents the severed limbs of the Aztec moon goddess, which now lives in the pyramid’s on-site museum, to the two snake heads that guard the main staircases, and also appear at a few other points around the pyramid.
Templo Mayor Museum
The Templo Mayor Museum is situated next to the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan, with the two of them together forming a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. The museum was founded after researchers first began excavating the site, as they were discovering thousands of truly fascinating objects that they believed were a significant part of the human sacrifices that occurred at the pyramid. From masks to clay pots to obsidian knives, the objects displayed at the Templo Mayor Museum will give you an exciting insight into what really went on in the pyramid. Templo Mayor is still a site that is actively being researched and excavated, with new objects being discovered each day, so you never know what may have surfaced since your last visit.
When visiting the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan, it is usually a good idea to take a look around the Templo Mayor Museum first, as you will be able to see detailed scale models of what the city used to look like. This will give you a much better idea of what you are looking at when exploring the pyramid itself, as well as a great appreciation for the many objects that have been discovered hidden within its depths.