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Interpreting the Evidence

San Juan Teotihuacan, Mexico, 1928

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Global History and Geography

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:


  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load San Juan Teotihuacan, Mexico, 1928 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
The wall of the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, or Temple of the Feathered Serpent, with the Pyramid of the Sun in the background, at the ancient city of Teotihuacan. Photograph taken in 1928.
Historical Context
The ancient city of Teotihuacan was one of the largest cities in the world at its height of power.  It was founded by the Teotihuacan people around 200 B.C. and was located thirty miles northeast of present-day Mexico City.  By the 5th and 6th centuries A.D., 100,000-200,000 people lived in the city.  

Little is known about the Teotihuacan culture.  They were probably involved in trade, and most of the people farmed the fields around the city. They were probably very religious, because many temples were located in the city.  The main street in Teotihuacan, the Avenue of the Dead, ran north and south.  Along the avenue were several impressive structures, including the Pyramid of the Sun, the Pyramid of the Moon, and the Ciudadela.  The Ciudadela, a large plaza in the center of the city, could hold 100,000 people.  The Temple of the Feathered Serpent at the center of the Ciudadela functioned as the religious and political center of the city.  

No one knows for sure why Teotihuacan lost its power, but around A.D. 700, the city had a sudden drop in population.  The city continued to decline until it eventually was abandoned.  Today, Teotihuacan is the most visited archaeological site in Mexico.

Essential Question
How does geography influence the development of a society?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain how geography influenced the development of this culture.
Historical Challenges
What were the largest cities in the world in A.D. 500? Compare the population of these cities to the population of Teotihuacan.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: The Avenue of the Dead in Teotihuacan was more than 2.5 kilometers long. How long was it in miles?
Science: How were the pyramids in this photograph built differently than the Egyptian pyramids? Which type of pyramid do you think was easier to build? Why?
English Language Arts: Write a story about why Teotihuacan's population declined around A.D. 700.
English Language Arts: Create a travel brochure for Teotihuacan