On the Street of the Dead looking north toward the Pyramid of the Moon. From a position at the centre of the street the Moon Pyramid lies directly beneath the notch in the mountain known as Cerro Gordo

Restored masonry surfaces of the structures lining the street were originally plastered and brightly painted. The pyramid, too, would have been a bright, shiny, coloured thing. Even the pavement was plastered and painted (red).

The scene would have been dazzling as well as impressive.

 

 

 

 

 

The person in the left foreground stands on top of the Moon Pyramid. He is looking south.

Immediately in front of him, mostly in shadow, are structures forming the east side of the Moon Plaza. In their midst a stage, the one small bright spot, is being erected for some kind of performance. Front parts of ancient structures have been restored but rear parts are left as grassy mounds of fallen debris. Superstructures of adobe have vanished through erosion.

At middle ground, the Sun Pyramid dominates the scene. Fron this angle it appears to nestle beneath a mountain peak just the way the Moon pyramid lies beneath Cerro Gordo. Brown grass in the middle ground is an unexcavated area probably filled with smaller structures.

The east half of the Street of the Dead is at the left edge of this view, stretching away to the south and aligned with a distant mountain peak.

 

 

 

 

Moon Pyramid from south-east corner of the Mood Plaza. Excavations from 1998 to 2004 revealed that there are seven superimposed structures. The earliest was built around 100 A.D. and the latest (the one we see here) about 400 A.D. The first three were relatively small and the fourth, built around 300 A.D., was very much bigger.

The main pyramid has four terraces supporting a low platform and a (now vanished) building. The surfaces visible here are all reconsolidated and somewhat rebuilt. Plaster finish and paint has not been applied but probably existed originally. Three frontal terraces project outward and flank the stair. Then, later, another frontal platform was added, the plataforma adosada. This has five terraces with tablero talude profiles. Each flight of the stair has lateral ramps known as alfardas. At the foot of the stair, in the Moon Plaza is a low, square platform. This too was added later.

To-day the over-all appearance is a sombre cityscape of dark stone. But originally the appearance would have been very different. All surfaces, including pavement, were finished with shiny plaster brightly painted. The glare would have been so great that one would have to squint to look at the scene. It's unlikely that there would have been any casual visitors to this area.

A summary of the excavations and findings, including several rich burials, and articles on artifacts and skeletal remains, appear in Ancient Mesoamerica Vol. 18, No.1, Spring, 2007.

 

 

 

Entrance to the Moon Plaza is signalled a large, roughly shaped boulder, somewhat like a plain stela, set well east of the central axis. Behind it is a low platform with tablero-talude profiles and stairs on all four sides. Behind that, not visible here, is another low platform supporting low walls following cardinal and intercardinal directions.

The main pyramid stair rises through the five terraces of the Plataforma adosada. These, too, have tablero-talude profiles, as do the other structures on the east and west sides of the plaza.

The higher terraces of the pyramid have plain profiles. This sets up a strong contrast between the plaza and the pyramid. No doubt the chanage in profiles would have been meaningful to the ancient users.

To-day we can only guess at possible ancient meanings. Different supernatural associations may have been involved: some indicated by tablero-talude profiles and others, perhaps creator gods, linked to the plain pyramid terraces.

Modern visitors can still sense the power embodied in this complex. For ancient people, perhaps, it might have been terrifying.