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Another Victim Of Diversity Found: Teotihuacán


The Smithsonian Magazine writes of the demise of the ancient city of Teotihuacán:

Recent fieldwork by scholars like David Carballo, of Boston University, has revealed the sheer diversity of the citizenry of Teotihuacán: Judging by artifacts and paintings found inside surviving structures, residents came to Teotihuacán from as far afield as Chiapas and the Yucatán. There were likely Mayan neighborhoods, and Zapotec ones. As the scholar Miguel Angel Torres, an official at Mexico’s National Institute for Anthropology and History, told me recently, Teotihuacán was probably one of the first major melting pots in the Western Hemisphere. “I believe that the city grew a little like modern Manhattan,” Torres says. “You walk around through these different neighborhoods: Spanish Harlem, Chinatown, Korea­town. But together, the city functions as one, in harmony.”

The harmony did not last. There is a hint, in the demolition of some of the sculptures that adorn the temples and monuments, of periodic regime change in the ruling class of Teotihuacán; and, in the depiction of shield- and spear-toting warriors, of clashes with other local city-states. Perhaps, as several archaeologists suggested to me, civil war swept through Teotihuacán, culminating in a fire that seems to have damaged vast sections of the interior of the city around A.D. 550. Perhaps the fire was caused by a visiting army. Perhaps a large-scale migration occurred.

Where have we seen this pattern before? City grows big and powerful, then becomes diverse. Next thing we hear: the city has somehow collapsed and left behind a third-world, mixed-race ruin where once far smarter and more visionary people existed.

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