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Calling All Stonemasons, Architects, and Mongoloid Painters (Day 67) – Mexico City, Mexico | We're Not There Yet

We went to visit the pyramids just outside of Mexcio City today.  Massive, spectacular sights they are, and the Temple of Sun is the third-largest pyramid in the world (behind a Mayan pyramid and Cheops in Egypt).

Temple of the Moon

But one thing really nagged at me during the visit.  If this was as advanced a civilization as they say it was, and by all accounts, it takes a helluva lotta intelligence to build these pyramids, lakes, temples and drainage systems, then why is this the best that they could do with pictures?

Supposedly the bottom half of a jaguar

This is by no means art – and yet it’s light years ahead in depicting a jaguar. From a gas station on the way to Acatlan, Mexico

I mean, seriously.  What’s it gotta be like in the room where everyone is divvying up the jobs?  Does the architect offer to build the massive, among-the-largest-in-the-world pyramids…

Temple of the Sun

…and does the stonemason say that he’ll be in charge of the intricate carvings on everything, and then does layout designer has a plan for how to arrange the Avenue of the Dead (actual name) to make space for temples, priestly housing, and pyramids?  And then does Lenny, the priest’s lackwit kid stand up to offer to draw something that kinda, sorta looks a little bit like a jaguar.  I mean, seriously, how does this happen?  The drawing looks more like what I could draw when I was six than what you’d expect from the rest of the complex.

My art historian sister would no doubt argue that the same is true of Western art, which I guess is true. Europeans had built the Haggia Sophia in Istanbul, and Notre Dame in Paris before anyone could even figure out how to draw anything in perspective.  But I just wonder why the architects put up with the crap painting jobs when they were already working at such a high level. I mean, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that lines converge when viewed at a distance.  If someone can explain this to me, please let me know!

Moving backwards now…we went today to visit the temple complex at Teotihuacan, which is about 50 km outside of Mexico City.  Now it’s known that Mexico City is located where the Aztecs had their capital.  But this temple complex predates the Aztecs by a huge amount.  Basically, you had the Olmecs, about whom nothing is known except that they carved crazy looking sculptures of heads (even the name “Olmec” means “People from the Region of Rubber” was coined by archaeologists in the 1920’s).  The Olmecs disappear, and then this new empire emerges that builds Teotihuacan, and they kick ass, but then they collapses in the 8th century A.D.  Then, further south, the Maya people emerge, build an empire, then collapse.  And it’s only after all that that the Aztecs, the laggards, show up in the Mexico City area to build their city.  And they’re in total awe of Teotihuacan, and they worship its gods even though the empire has long since collapsed.  So that’s how old this sh*t is! Even Aztecs thought it was insanely old and cool.

M climbing a pyramid

The area is laid out, by and large, along the Avenue of Death, and there are very well preserved buildings all the way along the route.  The avenue ends at two massive pyramids, the Temple of the Sun (the bigger one) and the Temple of the Moon, which is better preserved and has nicer proportionality than the hulking mass of rock that the Temple of Sun has become.  Back in the day, these temples were completely cased in plaster that was painted red, which would’ve been a pretty awesome sight to see, especially at sunset.

On top of the pyramid of the sun, looking at the smaller pyramid of the moon

It was a very cool experience walking around, though we had to dodge the ever present souvenir sellers who, among their trinkets, sold some kind of whistle to all the spoiled Mexican kids.  This whistle was designed to make a hoarse sounding shriek that supposedly sounds like the shriek of a jaguar (it basically sounds like the howl of a feral cat).  But selling it to kids is about as sensible as selling vuvuzelas to children in a museum.  Everywhere we walked we periodically had to jump as this gawdawful shriek erupted somewhere immediately around us.  I was damn tempted to revive the ancient art of human sacrifice on the spot.

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