Tula Archaeological Site

Tula Archeological Site


Location: 85 km (53 mi) North of Mexico city, Hidalgo

Open: daily


Description of Tula

Tula is an ancient archeological site situated 85 km (53 mi) North of Mexico city in the Mexican state of Hidalgo. Many tie this city state with the legendary Tollan, capital of the Toltec Empire founded around 750 AD. Tula reached the peak of its power between 900 and 1100 AD. At a height of its power it covered over 5 square miles with a population of over 60,000 inhabitants. The remains of this pre-Columbian city are located in the municipality of Tula de Allende, south of the state of Hidalgo (Mexico), and are part of the Tula National Park.


Tollan-Xicocotitlan or Tula is located in a valley of temperate climate, irrigated by the Tula River. The center of the pre-Columbian city was located very close to the confluence of this river with the Roses. Some important features of the relief of the region are the hills Magoni, Xicuco, Moctezuma, Bojay and the mountain range of Tezontlalpa. It has been pointed out that by the time the groups that gave birth to the Toltec culture, the region was populated by Otomies, the ethnic group that currently constitutes the main indigenous demographic element in the area, and from which a large number of place names survive in the Tula region. .

The region where the Toltec capital was built has a semi-dry climate. However, the presence of the Tula River allowed the development of a productive agriculture. On the other hand, the city was located, strategically, in the midst of obsidian deposits (such as the Sierra de las Navajas), alabaster and other minerals. Because of its geographical position, Tollan-Xicocotitlan became an important node of the turquoise routes, coming from the North of Mesoamerica, and from the region of Cañón del Chaco (in the present territory of New Mexico).


There is evidence of Tula influence in other parts of Mesoamerica, mostly seen in pottery in Tula and in other areas. One of the most debated questions is what, if any, relationship there might be between Tula and Chichén Itzá far to the south in the Yucatán Peninsula. The idea comes from the fact that there are similarities in various art and architectural styles. It is certain that neither could have conquered the other, but there is evidence that they may have been connected through trade networks.

By the time of the Spanish conquest, Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent deity was widely worshipped from what is now central Mexico down into Central America. The god is linked to a legendary ruler of Tula, Ce Acatl Quetzacoatl, who was often simply referred to as Quetzalcoatl. Mythological accounts surrounding the fall of Tula have this ruler succumbing to temptation by a dark deity named Tezcatlipoca, causing the destruction of the city. The fallen ruler then wanders to the Gulf Coast, immolates himself becoming the morning star (Venus).

The history of the city remained important up through the Aztec Empire and is reported in the codices written after the Spanish conquest. However, most of these stories are heavy in myth. These tend to start with the Toltecs and the city of Tula, followed by the migration of the Mexica to the Valley of Mexico. The stories either portray Tula as a kind of paradise in which the inhabitants master the sciences and arts or a city filled with strife headed for a downfall. In these the last ruler, Quetzalcoatl, is a legendary being with archetypical qualities.

Much of Toltec history was lost when Izcoatl burned the history books after founding the Aztec Empire. The planning of Tula was adopted by some Aztec city-state rulers for their urban centers.


History of Tula

Beginnings of the city

The first evidences of the occupation of Tula site correspond to the end of the Early Classic Period (II-VIII AD). By this time, the city of Teotihuacan - the main political and economic center of the center of Mesoamerica - began its process of decadence, yielding its hegemony to other city-states that flourished during the epiclassic period. In the valley of the Tula river small settlements were developed at that time where pieces corresponding to the Coyotlatelco culture have been found. Among these settlements are Chingú, El Águila, Magoni, and Atitalaquia.

After the decline of Teotihuacan, several cities in central Mexico occupied the power vacuum left by the metropolis. At the same time, it was the period during which migrations of Nonoalc and other Uto-Aztec peoples to the region began. Among the latter were those that, in union with other peoples already established in the Mexican Central Highlands, would give rise to the Toltec culture, which had its center in Tula. Towards the middle of the seventh century of our era, the construction of the first urban center began in Tollan-Xicocotitlan, known as Tula Chico. For this period the first iconographic allusions to the Quetzalcoatl cult associated with the planet Venus appear in the city. In Tula Chico archaeological remains of objects related to the ceramic complex of Coyotlatelco have been found. It is estimated that by the eighth century, a local variation of the Coyotlatelco style was well defined. From that moment the Corral Phase of the history of the Toltec capital began, which concluded towards the end of the 9th century with the gradual abandonment and fire of the Tula Chico buildings.

The indigenous chronicles collected by the missionaries at the beginning of the colonial era spoke of a confrontation between Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca over Tollan's control. Although it was sometimes considered that this story was only a myth, the archaeological evidence and the revision of the Historical sources have revealed that there was truly an internal dispute in Tula. One of the factions was led by Ce Ácatl Topiltzin Quetzalcóatl (in Nahuatl: Our Lord Plumed Serpent), which ended up being expelled from Tula by followers of the cult of Tezcatlipoca. The political conflict in the city could have taken place during the Corral Phase or at the beginning of the Tollan Phase (10th-12th centuries AD).


Apogee of Tula

It was precisely during the Tollan Phase that the city reached its peak. During this time a new civic-religious center was built. This corresponds to the so-called Tula Grande, 9 which reproduced the distribution of the Tula Chico buildings, which was not reoccupied as an administrative center. Throughout the Tollan phase, the city of Tula occupied the position as the main political, military and commercial center of the center of Mesoamerica. The Toltec became a multi-ethnic society, which developed particular artistic expressions from the integration of cultural elements from various regions of Mesoamerica. The great power of the elite of Tula allowed him to import precious products, such as the turquoise oasisamericana or ceramic products from places as distant as Nicoya (Costa Rica).

Like the Teotihuacans during their heyday, the inhabitants of Tula took advantage of the lime deposits located south of the city's site (near the ancient Chingu). Of the lime trade - essential for construction and in pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cuisine - the Toltecs obtained a good part of their economic resources. No less important were the basalt and rhyolite deposits of Magoni and the obsidian of the Sierra de las Navajas. From this mountain formation, 80% of the total obsidian manufactured by Tula came out, while the rest came from Zinapécuaro (Michoacán). The Toltecs, on the other hand, imported products from other regions. Among the remains of the city have been found samples of Tohil Plomiza ceramics from Guatemala and Soconusco, as well as Fine Orange ceramics from southern Veracruz. Other products that the Toltecs obtained from distant regions of Mesoamerica are cocoa (Chiapas and Guatemala), serpentine (Depression of the Balsas), turquoise (Oasisamérica) and onyx (Puebla).

During the Tollan Phase, the cityTula h ad to reach its greatest extension and population. Some authors calculate the urban area of ​​Tollan-Xicocotitlan between 5 and 16 km² at that time, with a population of between 16 thousand and 55 thousand inhabitants, during this phase the monumental space that constitutes the current archaeological zone of Tula was consolidated. in two large pyramidal foundations, two courts for the ball game and several palaces that could be occupied by the Toltec elite. By this time, Tula became not only the heart of Mesoamerican commercial networks. In addition, it was the seat of a militarist-theocratic elite that imposed its rule in several parts of Mesoamerica, either by military conquest, by political alliance or by the establishment of colonies in strategic locations.


Decline of Tula

The decline of Tula began in the mid-twelfth century, and is a process that coincides with the so-called Fire Phase. During the two centuries that this stage of the pre-Columbian history of the city lasted, the main buildings of the administrative center were set on fire. The historical reconstruction made by the archaeologist Jorge Acosta was that of a catastrophic event of looting and burning of the city, due to the invasion of Mexican groups. This catastrophic end led for a long time to think that there was a considerable reduction in the population of the urban area and the entire region as a result of the collapse of the city, which would produce economic chaos in the region that dispersed a large part of the population. dense population that lived in Toltec times. At present, however, thanks to the studies of Juan Yadeun in the urban area, we know that not only did "catastrophic depopulation" not occur in Tula, but there was a demographic continuity, and in the Tula region it is reported that there is a high continuity between the settlement of the Tollan occupations and those of the Palace phase that leads us to reflect that the qualitative change from the Toltec to the late Aztec era would occur without a depopulation between them.


It is probable that the reasons for this process of decline were of order internal, as well as other external factors, particularly a political crisis in the government sector.The fall of the Toltec capital was associated with the exhaustion of a political system widely spread in Mesoamerica during the flourishing of the city, where the association between the Tollan mythical and the figure of the Feathered Serpent served as a means of legitimating the hegemonic elite in several parts of the current territory of Mexico and Central America. In Tula, this resulted in a series of disputes between groups that struggled for the domination of the city, which ended up ruining it. The remains of one of the most important buildings, the Quemado Palace, takes its current name from the archaeological evidence that proves that it was burned down. Although recent studies suggest that most administrative buildings, such as temples, neighborhood temples and council areas, were set on fire as part of a termination ritual.

In the region adjacent to Tula the same thing happened. Thus, for example, in the northern part of the Basin of Mexico, an important region under the control of Tula, occurs the abandoned provincial centers such as San Miguel Eyacalco, an extensive and complex settlement through which Tula maintained control of the area of ​​the plains of Pachuca. Provincial centers, like Apazco, also disappear, while others, such as Santa María, Mesa la Ahumada and El Pedregal, have an almost total depopulation. However, most of the villages and small hamlets continue to be occupied in this area without apparent abandonment occurring. The foregoing indicates that there was a high degree of demographic continuity, of around 60% of the population, after the fall of Tula, without us being able to think that Tollan's collapse resulted in a demographic vacuum at the regional level.


After the political collapse of the Toltec state, several of the city's lineages of government began an exodus that led them to settle in other parts of Mesoamerica. Some settled in Colhuacán, where they established an important manor that dominated the south of the Valley of Mexico. In the end, the Culhuacan elite gave the Mexica their first tlatoani, who claimed their Toltec ancestry as the basis of their legitimacy. Despite the mass exodus of population, Tollan-Xicocotitlan was never completely abandoned, and remained an important population in its region, although never comparable with its time of flowering.

During the Palacio Phase (1350-1450), the city was occupied by Mexican groups. They made new constructions for housing use in the Quemado Palace, the K structure and other abandoned structures. It is known that around 1422, the Tlatelolcas made an expedition to the remains of the ancient Toltec capital, and that Mexican groups performed a representation of King Quetzalcoatl on the Malinche hill. In addition, there were several monuments of Toltec origin that were moved from the ancient city towards Mexico-Tenochtitlan. In short, for the Mexica, the Toltec capital remained an important political reference point.

After the Spanish conquest, a new population was built in the region that took its name from the old city, although it became Castilianized. This population corresponds to the current Tula de Allende. In the vicinity of the archaeological site of Tula are the remains of a construction of those first years of the Colony, which correspond to the last archaeological phase of Tula, known as Treasure.