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Teotihuacan Comes to San Francisco

Posted by Christopher Hall on September 26, 2017
The site of Teotihuacan outside of Mexico City, Mexico, picture
Photo credit
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Photo caption
Many of the exhibition's highlights were excavated from three of the ancient city's largest pyramids, including the Pyramid of the Moon.

San Francisco is about to enjoy a rare and exciting encounter with an ancient metropolis that reigned nearly 2,000 years ago as the political, economic, and religious center of Mesoamerica.

Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire, an exhibit opening at the de Young museum on September 30, features more than 200 artworks and artifacts from one of the world's largest and most important archeological sites. It is the first major U.S. exhibit in more than 20 years to focus on Teotihuacan, located about 30 miles outside modern-day Mexico City. Many of the objects on display were recently excavated or have never been seen in this country.

The green serpentine mask on display in Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire at the de Young.
Photo credit
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Photo caption
The green serpentine mask on display in Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire at the de Young.

Founded in the first century B.C. and reaching its peak a few centuries later, Teotihuacan once covered nearly eight square miles and boasted enormous pyramids, long avenues, and a multiethnic population exceeding 100,000 people. Its artisans produced sophisticated works, such as the ghostly green serpentine human mask, bas-relief carving with a skull motif, and multi-colored ceramic tripod vessel decorated with an image of a blow-gunner, all included in the exhibit. A number of the exhibit's highlights were excavated from three of Teotihuacan's largest pyramids.

A devastating sixth-century A.D. fire led to Teotihuacan's rapid decline. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the most popular of all of Mexico's many archeological sites, it is visited by upwards of four million people each year.

The exhibit runs at the de Young museum through February 11, 2018. If you aren't able to see it there, catch it at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from March 25 through July 15, 2018.