The ethnicity of the founders of the ancient city of Teotihuacán, lying 50 m (30 miles) northeast of modern Mexico City, is a matter of mystery and controversy. The consensus is that the Nahua, Otomi and Totonac peoples may all have played a part in its establishment, thought to have been around 100 BCE, and its major buildings were constructed over a period of about 150 years. At its height, in around 300 CE, it comprised over 2,000 buildings within an area of 18 square km (7 square miles). With a population estimated at over 100,000, it was the largest city in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and perhaps the sixth-largest in the world. A central road 40 metres (44 yards) wide and 2.4 km (1.5 miles) long, later called by the Spanish the ‘Avenue of the Dead’, is orientated northeast-southwest alongside the colossal ‘Pyramid of the Sun’ and towards the smaller ‘Pyramid of the Moon’. The magnificent southern area the Spanish called ‘the citadel’ was probably in fact a religious gathering-ground, being flanked by the Temple of Quetzalcoatl or the ‘feathered serpent’ and surrounded by four porticoed vestibules with ‘talud-tablero’ painted lintels and ornately carved pillars decorated with obsidian and mica. The ‘Great Compound’ opposite was probably a marketplace. The city was a centre for the crafting of pottery, jewellery and obsidian from the nearby mines of Pachuca.
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