Teotihuacan ancient culture affected by megathrust earthquakes during the early Epiclassic Period (Mexico) [open access]

Abstract: Teotihuacan was one of the thriving cultures in the Mesoamerica pre-Hispanic times, located in the Central Valley of Mexico. The city-state was a dominant centre point during the Classic period and its influence affected other contemporaneous cultures. Around the year 550 CE, a continuous decrease in urban population and selective building destruction was noted, accompanied by widespread fire. The layout of the city is identified by an avenue that articulates the political-administrative and religious centres, with such significant and impressive buildings as the Pyramid of the Sun, the Pyramid of the Moon and the Temple of Feathered Serpent. A systematic analysis of building damage in the pyramids reveals several Earthquake Archaeological Effects, (EAEs) potentially related to seismic loading. A damage pattern compatible with a strong ground shaking was also identified in the west staircase of the Old Temple of the Feathered Serpent, in the first rows of the west staircase of the Adosada platform (New Temple), and in the Pyramid of the Sun. In total, five ancient earthquakes have been determined from the damage, dated from the Tzacualli cultural period (1–100 CE), to the Xolalpan – Metepec period (450–550 CE). Unfortunately, this methodology does not determine the earthquake source. Therefore, we consider the possibility that repetitive megathrust earthquakes (Mw > 8.5) from the Middle American Trench (Pacific coast) could be responsible for the spatial pattern of the building damage. This proposal does not conflict with other existing theories for the Teotihuacan abrupt collapse, considering that the sudden overlapping of natural disasters like earthquakes could increase internal warfare (uprising), and civil unrest.

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