Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tulum: The Mayan Walled City

Temple of the Descending God
     Tulum, The Walled City, served as a major seaport for the "Pre-Columbian Era" Mayans serving the city of Coba.   The original name for Tulum was "Zama" meaning the "City of Dawn", because of it easterly facing orientation on the 39 foot cliffs and overlooking the Caribbean Sea.   Most active between the 13th and 16th centuries, although the earliest dated item is A.D. 564.  The Mayan city managed to survive some 70 years after the Spanish began occupying Mexico.   Unfortunately it was the "Old World" diseases that were to bring the native Mayans into extinction.

     There are three major structures on the site, The Temple of the Descending Gods, El Castillo, and the Temple of the Frescoes.   The architecture of the site is recognized by the step foundations at the base of the structures and the similarity of the structures to those at Chichen Itza, but on a much smaller scale.   

     The largest structure on the site is "El Castillo" or the Castle a structure that can be seen from the sea or from inland.   It is the dominant structure of the site, although the shrine appears to have been built upon another structure.   El Castillo was  used as a beacon to guide canoes into the port.  There is a break in the reef exactly opposite "El Castillo" and it is in front of the break in the cliffs that provided the perfect location for any trading to take place.   Artifacts in the area indicate that trading at the site was one of the primary functions of Tulum.

     The Temple of the Frescoes was primarily used as an observatory to track the movement of the sun.  The Temple of the Frescoes has a lower gallery and a smaller second story observatory.  Like the other buildings of the site, the architecture is classic Mayan.

    Like Chichen Itza, Coba, and the other Mayan ruins that are located throughout the Mayan Riviera, Tulum is probably one of the more spectacular to see because of it's proximity to the Caribbean sea and the towns of Cancun and Cozumel.   It is a short hour and a half bus ride from the Hotel zone in Cancun to the site and a real pleasure to wander through the ruins and wonder at what the Mayan people accomplished with so few tools.   I guess it is the enormity of the entire Mayan cities and the engineering marvels that they constructed that keeps me in aah of the Mayans.   ;o