Teotihuacan at Night: Lighting a Prehispanic City

Author(s): Randolph Widmer; Rebecca Storey

Year: 2017


Teotihuacan was a large and populous city at its height with an estimated population of 100,000 people. Since it lies in an arid landscape with neither domesticated animals as a source of dung for fuel nor oils from tree seeds these fuel sources could not have been used for cooking, lighting and to a lesser degree heating. Only wood from trees and shrubs and other plant materials could have been used for fuel. These have been identified in charcoal from archaeological deposits at Teotihuacan, indicating their possible use in lighting. Certain artifact types, such as candelaros, tapa platas, braziers, and censors, used for cooking and ritual also provide light. The demand for fuel from trees and shrubs would have been high, so these resources would have been managed and their distribution and consumption highly organized. We argue that Teotihuacan was a relatively dark and quiet city at night, and only those citizens and compounds that were wealthy enjoyed light from external fuel sources at night. We further suggest that Teotihuacanos took advantage of light derived from ceremonies, rituals, and cooking and therefore performed these activities at night when light was required rather than in the day when light wasn’t needed.

Cite this Record

Teotihuacan at Night: Lighting a Prehispanic City. Randolph Widmer, Rebecca Storey. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431049)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15406