The most famous single pyramid in Latin America is the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacán, Mexico. The Teotihuacán was one of the most dominant societies in Mesoamerica; their namesake capital, located northeast of today’s Mexico City, had a population of 100,000 to 200,000 during the fifth and sixth centuries. According to Aztec tradition, the sun and the moon, as well as the rest of the universe, traced their origins to Teotihuacán. More temples have been discovered there than in any other Mesoamerican city.
The Teotihuacán built the Pyramids of the Sun and of the Moon between A.D. 1 and 250. Like many Mesoamerican pyramids, each was constructed around a core of rubble held in place by retaining walls. The walls were then faced with adobe bricks, and then covered with limestone. The base of the Pyramid of the Sun measures 730 feet per side, with five stepped terraces reaching a height of some 200 feet. Its massive size rivals that of the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza. Within the current pyramid is another, earlier pyramid structure of almost the same size. In 1971, archaeologists discovered a cave underneath the Pyramid of the Sun, leading to a chamber in the shape of a four-leaf clover. Artifacts found in the cave indicated the room’s use as a shrine, long before the pyramid itself was built.
The Pyramid of the Moon, though similar, was built on a smaller scale; it sits at the north end of the city’s main axis, called the Avenue of the Dead. Teotihuacán also contains a smaller stepped, stone-covered temple-pyramid called the Temple of the Feathered Serpent (an early form of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl). It was dedicated around A.D. 200, and evidence has been found of some 200 individuals who were sacrificed in the ceremony to honor it. Teotihuacán declined between the seventh and 10th centuries and was eventually abandoned.