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Templo Mayor

Listed under Archaeological Sites in Mexico City, Mexico.

  • Photo of Templo Mayor
  • Photo of Templo Mayor
  • Photo of Templo Mayor
Photo of Templo Mayor
Photo by flickr user duelin markers
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Templo Mayor was the main temple of the Aztecs, located at the centre of the capital city of the Aztec nation, and dedicated to two gods: Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, and Tlaloc, the god of rain. This double dedication explains the way the temple is shaped – like two pyramids built very close to each other, with separate staircases up to the shrines at the top. When they were constructed, in around 1330, they were approximately 80m high.

The bad news is that they were destroyed by the Spanish in 1521, and now exist as an archaeological site just out of Mexico City's main square. Like many of the Aztec buildings the Templo was covered over by Mexico City and it wasn't fully excavated until 1978, partly because to uncover it nine buildings had to be demolished and some of those were 19th Century colonial classics. But it was worth it as far as archaeologists were concerned as more than 7,000 objects have been uncovered so far, including many reptile skeletons, coral and alabaster jewellery and statues, ceramics, skulls, knives of flint and obsidian and a lot of copper and gold.

Visitors can see this haul of dug up treasures at the Templo Mayor Museum, but even more interestingly they can have a look at the actual temple in various stages of its excavation. When an Aztec ruler wanted to increase the grandeur of a building they used the current building as a base, so this temple is actually seven temples all built on top of each other, which is why the various stages of the excavation are so interesting. The only two stages of the temple's existence that can't be seen are the first one and the final one – which was the one the conquistadors trashed.

The museum is on site. The most important artefact in the collection is a vast stone disk: 3:25 metres in diameter, 30cms thick and weighing eight tonnes, which is a dedication to Coyilxauhqui, the moon goddess.

Address: Seminario 8, Historical District

Opening time: Tuesday to Sunday, from 9am to 5pm

Written by  Dan Pantone.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Just FYI, the photo shows the Aztec calendar sculpture which is not at the Templo Mayor, it's at the Museo Nacional Anthropologie in Chapultepec Park. Templo Mayor, which is adjacen to the Zocolo, is certainly worth a look and a few photos, but Anthropologie is a world class museum in the category of the Met and the Louvre - a must see. I could not see all of Anthropologie in one day - it's that big.

1 Reply

Thanks for letting us know - we'll change the image. Thanks for the useful comments and the help with the photo.

Eh...

I spent all of the past summer in Mexico, and traveled to many of the key ruins and museums. This one was the least impressive. There was nothing terribly wrong with it, it was just rather small and there are so many amazing museums close by in Mexico City.

3 Replies

Which was your favourite temple or museum? The one that's most worth spending time at?

In Mexico City itself? In terms of the same sort of things...the Museo Nacional de Antropologia was amazing. My favorite ruins weren't actually in Mexico City, but so worth the travel: Teotihuacán.

Cool, thanks for letting us know.

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