Megaquakes Triggered Architectural Revolution in Ancient Teotihuacan

Devastating megaearthquakes between 100-650 AD led to the collapse of the ancient city of Teotihuacan, despite inhabitants' efforts to reinforce their structures, according to a new study.

Mahnoor Jehangir
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Megaquakes Triggered Architectural Revolution in Ancient Teotihuacan

Megaquakes Triggered Architectural Revolution in Ancient Teotihuacan

The ancient city of Teotihuacan, one of the most influential pre-Hispanic centers of power in Central America, collapsed due to a series of devastating megaearthquakes that occurred between 100 and 650 AD, according to a new study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science Reports. Experts from various Spanish and Mexican universities have found that at least five large seismic events during this period severely damaged or destroyed the city's main buildings, including the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon, and the Temple of the Feathered Serpent.

The study suggests that these megaearthquakes, likely originating from the Mesoamerican Trench in the Pacific Ocean, directly led to the collapse of the Teotihuacan civilization, despite the inhabitants' efforts to rebuild and reinforce their architectural structures. The researchers highlight the use of anti-seismic measures, such as the locking of ashlar blocks, in the reconstruction of the pyramids and temples, but these were ultimately not enough to withstand the magnitude of the earthquakes.

The combination of high seismic energy, frequency, and the sediment filling of the nearby Lake Texcoco is believed to have contributed to the deformation patterns observed in the city's structures, eventually leading to its abandonment around 650 AD.

Why this matters: The findings shed new light on the role of natural disasters in shaping ancient civilizations and their architectural practices. The study also highlights the importance of understanding the seismic history of a region when investigating the rise and fall of ancient cities.

Teotihuacan, located about 30 miles northeast of modern-day Mexico City, was one of the largest cities in the ancient world, with a population estimated at around 125,000 at its peak. The city's collapse has long been a subject of debate among archaeologists, with theories ranging from invasions to internal unrest. The new study provides compelling evidence that a series of devastating earthquakes played a pivotal role in the city's demise, triggering an architectural revolution as the inhabitants sought to adapt to the seismic threat.

Key Takeaways

  • Teotihuacan collapsed due to 5 megaearthquakes from 100-650 AD.
  • Earthquakes severely damaged the city's main buildings, including pyramids.
  • Anti-seismic measures were not enough to withstand the quake magnitudes.
  • Findings shed light on natural disasters' role in shaping ancient civilizations.
  • Teotihuacan was one of the largest ancient cities, with 125,000 people at peak.