Archaeology of Teotihuacan, Mexico
Architecture of the Feathered Serpent Pyramid : Facades
Feathered Serpent Pyramid was constructed around A.D.200, the last major
monument to be built in the city. The new construction program began with
the destruction of existing structures, with most areas leveled to the natural
tepetate subsoil. The interment of sacrificial graves, the preparation of
the pyramidal platform, the construction of the surmounting temple, and
the installation of the sculpted facades comprised the major stages in the
erection of this monument. One of the unique features of the pyramid was
the large number of massive, sacred images depicted in high-relief in all
four of its facades (Iconography of the Facades
at the Feathered Serpent Pyramid). This type of pyramidal construction
with stone blocks and curving heads can only be found at the Feathered Serpent
Pyramid and the Adosada platform of the Sun Pyramid in Teotihuacan.
Serpent Pyramid was perhaps one of the first instances in which the 'talud-tablero'
[an architectural design form that combines the shape of a rectangle (tablero)
and a trapezoid (talud)], was used in Teotihuacan construction. The pyramid
was exactly square in plan view, with sides about 65 m long (plan of the
structure before excavations in 1980s). It is currently 19.4 m high. Marquina
(1951: 85) proposed that the original pyramid had six stepped platforms
or stages, with a total of 366 sculpted heads. This reconstruction is certainly
incorrect, since, in Marquina's reconstruction, both counts of the numbers
of heads present and the distance between them are in error. In addition,
the pyramid seems to have had seven stepped platforms, rather than six.
Several possibilities for the numbers of head depictions can be proposed,
based on limited empirical evidence. However, important questions remain
unresolved, and a complete reconstruction of the pyramid is not yet possible.
On the western
(and best preserved) facade of the Feathered Serpent Pyramid , the heads
of feathered serpents alternate regularly with another type of head. It
is likely that the same pattern of alternation was repeated on the south
side, as indicated by the discovery of several serpent heads in fill deposits
to the south of the Feathered Serpent Pyramid, and by a headdress head found
in its original location in the south facade. Sculptural data from fallen
blocks on the north and east sides suggest that the same pattern was repeated
on all sides of the pyramid. The reconstructed plan is thus based on field
data assembled from the west, south, and north sides of the pyramid.
Last Update: 8/20/2001
Saburo Sugiyama: Arizona State University, Dept. of Anthropology, Tempe,
ęCopyright 1996 Project Temple of Quetzalcoatl, Instituto Nacional
de Antropología e Historia, México/ ASU