I think it’s very easy to lose perspective on the history of ancient civilizations. The further you go back in history, the less we can say for certainty and state as fact. The United States of America has only existed in its current form as a “world power” for maybe 100 years and look at how much the world has changed in those 100 years. Much of those changes is a direct result of modernization and technological progress but you had entire civilizations rise and fall without access to the wheel. The Olmec, for example, were at the peak 2000 years before the Aztec were even on the map and left behind a number of fantastic and mysterious sculptures. The Olmec, Teotihuacanos, Maya all had time to rise to magnificent heights in their eras and then nearly disappear from the face of the Earth all before the Aztecs had built their great cities.
Teotihuacan, from what archaeologists have pieced together, seems like a city that grew as a result of disaster. Geologists have helped to put Teotihuancan’s founding after the massive eruption of the volcano Popocatépetl. This major disaster brought the many indigenous groups together into one area and turned Teotihuacan into an ancient metropolis. Imagine fleeing what could only seem like the end of the world and taking refuge in a city crowded with people from every corner of your known world. This blending of cultures gave rise to one of the most magnificent cities in the Americas and we know next to nothing about it. The most we know about this society and its people is from secondhand accounts and influences on other neighboring cultures and their cities.
I used to think that all the mysteries had been solved in archaeology. That there was nothing left to be discovered. Yet places like Teotihuacan consistently prove that my assumptions were wrong. What other discoveries are hiding just beneath the surface of some of these sites? If today’s human civilizations are simply built upon the ruins of other past civilizations, what pieces of history could possibly be right beneath our feet? Teotihuacan should be a lesson for everyone that you should always keep searching for more of the story, there’s always more to find.