ASU at Teotihuacan curated by Seonaid Valiant
November 16, 2018- January 30, 2019, Noble Library, Arizona State University
The archaeologist René Millon from the University of Rochester began researching at the ancient city of Teotihuacan in central Mexico in the early 1960s. At that time, he opened a research laboratory in the nearby town of San Juan de Teotihuacan, where researchers could study and store the materials that they excavated.
Millon documented the valley in which the iconic Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon are located, with the Teotihuacan Mapping Project, by creating photogrammetric manuscript maps. This work allowed scholars to see for the first time that the site exceeded fifteen square kilometers in area, which was larger than they had previously suspected.
As a graduate student from Brandeis University, George Cowgill, started working with Millon at Teotihuacan in the 1960s. He officially joined Arizona State University (ASU) as a Professor of Archaeology in 1989, and continued working at Teotihuacan until the 2000s.
Cowgill excavated at the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent and he examined artifacts collected from the entire surface area of Teotihuacan. Cowgill’s documentation of these collections provided the first large archaeological database and systematic analysis of this material.
Following Cowgill’s move to ASU, he continued as the custodian of the research lab and it became the center for multiple excavations. The addition of a second story in 1992 allows for the storage of the several million artifacts, much of which was collected by the Teotihuacan Mapping Project. Furthermore, the lab trains students from both the United States and Mexico and provides a home base for researchers working at Teotihuacan.
ASU’s work at Teotihuacan continues today. The director of the lab since 2015, Michael E. Smith has taken on the task of organizing and publishing the data collected by René Millon that, although not previously published, continue to be relevant.
A student of George Cowgill, Saburo Sugiyama, is associated with both ASU and Aichi Prefectural University in Japan, and has excavated at the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon, and the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent in addition to smaller structures. He is currently excavating at the Plaza of the Columns at Teotihuacan in collaboration with Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.
This exhibit visually documents ASU’s lab at Teotihuacan and highlights the archival papers of George Cowgill in the ASU Archives. On loan from the Mesoamerican Archaeology Lab, SHESC, at ASU are artifacts from the site and the department’s working copy of Rene Millon’s publication The Teotihuacan Map.
The ASU Library wishes to thank the Mesoamerican Archaeology Lab, SHESC, ASU, Michael E. Smith, Angela Huster, and Amy Watson.
References: René Millon, The Teotihuacan Map. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1973; René Millon, “The Teotihuacan Mapping Project,” American Antiquity, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Jan. 1964), pp. 345-352.