Historic “Teotihuacan” opens at de Young Museum

Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire is the first major U.S. exhibition on Teotihuacan in more than 20 years. The ancient metropolis of Teotihuacan is one of the largest and most important archaeological sites in the world, and the most-visited archaeological site in Mexico.

Stone fragment from the Moon Pyramid, which is Teotihuacan’s second-largest structure. | Barbara Keck

At its peak in 400 CE, Teotihuacan was the cultural, political, economic and religious center of Mesoamerica and inhabited by a multiethnic population of more than 100,000 people. This historic exhibition at San Francisco’s de Young Museum features more than 200 artifacts and artworks from the site and is a rare opportunity to view objects drawn from major collections in Mexico, some recently excavated – many on view in the U.S. for the first time – together in one spectacular exhibition.

Located about 30 miles outside of modern-day Mexico City, Teotihuacan was founded in the first century BCE near a set of natural springs in an otherwise arid corner of the Valley of Mexico. At its height a few centuries later, the city covered nearly eight square miles and featured enormous pyramids, long avenues and residential compounds. The exhibition includes artifacts recently excavated from the site of the Feathered Serpent Pyramid, as well as objects from both recent and historic excavations of the Moon Pyramid, and the Sun Pyramid—the three largest pyramids at Teotihuacan.

Alongside mural fragments from a residential compound at Teotihuacan, there are monumental and ritual objects from the three pyramids. Beautiful ceramics and stone sculptures from the city’s apartment compounds, which were inhabited by diverse peoples from many parts of Mexico, are featured in well-annotated display cases.

In the 6th Century, a devastating fire in the city center led to Teotihuacan’s rapid decline, but the city was never completely abandoned or forgotten; the Aztecs revered the city and its monuments, giving many of them the names we still use today. Teotihuacan is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts upwards of 4 million visitors annually.

The exhibit will be on display through Feb. 11, 2018.

The de Young museum is part of Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Open Tuesday through Sunday, the museum is in Golden Gate Park. | deyoung.famsf.org