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Coordinates: 19°31′55.8″N 99°10′6.


Tenayuca (Nahuatl languages: Tenanyohcān) is a pre-Columbian Mesoamerican
Pyramid of Tenayuca
archaeological site in the Valley of Mexico. In the Postclassic period of
Mesoamerican chronology, Tenayuca was a settlement on the former shoreline of the
western arm of Lake Texcoco. It was located approximately 10 kilometres (6.2 mi)
to the northwest of Tenochtitlan (the heart of present-dayMexico City).

Tenayuca is considered to be the earliest capital city of the Chichimec, nomadic

tribes who migrated and settled in the Valley of Mexico, where they formed their
own kingdoms.[1]

The Aztec pyramid of Tenayuca

Contents Region Valley of Mexico

Status preserved, with
Genesis of Aztec sacred architecture
Location Greater Mexico
Site layout and description
Photo gallery Municipality Tlalnepantla de
See also
Notes State Mexico State
References Geographic 19°31′55.8″N
External links coordinates 99°10′6.5″W
Type Temple
Etymology Style Aztec
Tenayuca means walled place in Nahuatl.[1] Specifications
Direction of West
Location façade
The pyramid of Tenayuca is located in San Bartolo Tenayuca in Tlalnepantla de Baz, Length 52 meters
in Mexico State.[1] It falls within the urban sprawl ofGreater Mexico City. Width 60 meters
History Tenayuca at INAH (in Spanish)
By some historiographic traditions Tenayuca had been founded ca. 1224 by Xolotl, a
semi-legendary ruler of a "Chichimec" tribe that had settled in the Valley of Mexico in the period some time after the 12th-century
collapse of the former political hegemony in the Valley — the so-called Toltec empire, emanating fromTula.[2] Xolotl was succeeded
by Nopaltzin who consolidated the Chichimec Kingdom . His son, Tlotzin, became lord of Tenayuca. When Nopaltzin died, his
successor Quinatzin transferred the seat of Chichimec power toTexcoco, relegating Tenayuca to a site of secondary importance.[1]

However archaeological remains recovered from T

enayuca indicate that the site had already been occupied in the Classic Period, long
before this foundational event described in several of the Mesoamerican historical documents. Its population increased in the early
ula, when Tenayuca became an important regional power.[3]
Postclassic and continued to increase after the fall of T
Left:xiuhcoatl statue at Tenayuca, Aztec period Right:Location of Tenayuca in the basin of Mexico. Click to

In the late 13th century A.D., some time after the arrival of the Chichimecs at Tenayuca, Tochintecuhtli,[4] the ruling lord of
Tenayuca, allied himself with Huetzin, lord of the Acolhuas of Coatlichán, and their alliance dominated the central Valley of Mexico,
extending as far northeast as Tulancingo. By the mid 14th century the power of Tenayuca had already waned, it was conquered and
replaced as a regional power by nearby Azcapotzalco.[5] Around 1434, Tenochtitlan conquered Tenayuca, bringing it into the Aztec

At the time of the Spanish Conquest Tenayuca was still occupied, and fighting took place there in 1520.[2] The conquistador Bernal
Díaz del Castillo referred to Tenayuca as the "town of the serpents".[7]

At some point the site was abandoned. It was rediscovered during excavations made by Mexican archaeologists in 1925.

Genesis of Aztec sacred architecture

Aztec temple architecture primarily developed at Tenayuca, which has the earliest example yet found of the typical Aztec double
pyramid, which consists of joined pyramidal bases supporting two temples. After Tenayuca came under Aztec dominance, the Aztecs
adopted this innovative style for the worship of their own deities.

The temple of Tenayuca is better preserved than the similar temple of Tlatelolco and its wall of serpents remains mostly intact on
three sides of the base of the pyramid.[2][9]

Site layout and description

The site consists of a massive pyramidal platform with a double stairway rising on the western side to where the twin temples of
Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli once stood. The temple of Tlaloc occupied the northern part of the pyramid while the Huitzilopochtli
temple stood to the south. Some of the temple steps are carved with year-glyphs such as knives, circles and shields.[1] To the south of
the stairway at ground level is a projecting platform bearing sculptures of crossed bones and projecting skulls.

Like many Mesoamerican temples, various phases of construction were built one on top of the other. In the case of Tenayuca, the size
of the building increased through six phases of construction but the basic form remained unchanged. The original double pyramid
was enlarged five times, the first time probably in 1299 and then successively at 52-year intervals. The last phase of construction
probably dates to 1507 and measures 62 meters wide by 50 meters deep. Aztec influence is apparent from the third stage in 1351, the
following stages were purely Aztec in style, as demonstrated by the sloping tiers of the pyramid rather than the vertical walls
apparent in the earlier stages.[1][2]
The pyramid base is surrounded by a coatepantli (Nahuatl for wall of
serpents), a low platform supporting 138 stone sculptures of snakes. Their
bodies were once covered with plaster and painted in a variety of colours, with
their scales painted black. On the north and south sides of the pyramid, at
ground level, are two sculptures of coiled serpents . The crests on their heads
bear markings representing the stars and identify them as Xiuhcoatl (the fire
serpent). All the serpent sculptures around the pyramid were associated with
fire and sun worship.[1][2]

There are several altars and shrines nearby that were also excavated, some of
these also have serpent sculptures.[7] The base of the Aztec pyramid of
Tenayuca — adorned with a row of
200 meters from the main pyramid of Tenayuca are the remains of what appear rattlesnake sculptures, known as
to have been an elite residential complex, with surviving plaster floors in some coatepantli in Nahuatl.
rooms. This area has been labelled Tenayuca II by archaeologists and appears
to have gone through various phases of construction.

The pyramid of Tenayuca is in the care of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (National Institute of Anthropology and
History) and is open to the public.

Photo gallery

View of pyramids north East side of pyramid Section of serpent wall or Inside of pyramid
side coatepantli on the museum
northwest side of

Museum exhibit of Coiled snake sculpture at North altar to the side of This altar, decorated with
settlements glyph north altar the pyramid. The snake skulls and crossed bones
sculpture is between the was found in the
two platforms pyramids base with
human bone fragments