Teotenango: The Serpent

Serpent Carving from Teotenango
W0010TO: Serpent Carving
The north-western section of Teotenango’s central complex  is known as the Grupo de la Serpiente (Group of the Snake). The group is principally constructed upon Structure 2D, which is a huge platform 120 metres long, 40 metres wide and two tiers high. On the east side of the structure is a large carved serpent head, which gives the group its name. The serpent is typically styled, with a beastly snout (which has been largely broken), a fierce brow, sharp teeth (also broken) and curling fangs (clearly visible emanating from the corner of the mouth). This example cleverly uses the same swirling motif for both the nose and the fangs, which suggests the swirl has its own inherent meaning – perhaps symbolic of a swirling galaxy or the cosmos as a whole. Images of this beastly serpent can be found in most cities throughout Mesoamerica and it is thought to be representative of a principle deity known as Quetzalcoatl – the feathered serpent. Where the serpent carving meets the wall of Structure 2D, there appears to be the beginning of plumes of feathers which radiate as straight lines (see fig.  W0010TO). Temple of Quetzalcoatl at Teotihuacan
W0037TN: Temple of Quetzalcoatl at Teotihuacan
This style of Quetzalcoatl imagery is probably best known from Teotihuacan, where the Temple of Quetzalcoatl is adorned with ornate serpent heads that feature plumes sprouting from the neck like petals with straight lines radiating behind. The image is thought to be representative of Quetzalcoatl as the sun god with the plumes of feathers representing radiant beams of light. Other examples of this monstrous snake are found in a bicephalic form and are thought to  symbolise the ecliptic path. In all cases, the serpent is related to the cosmos and the carving on Structure 2D almost certainly tells us the structure was related to cosmological observation or religious activity.

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