Magnificent Mayan Ruins of Tulum
Such walled cities are few in number. Research indicates that the Mayan Ruins of Tulum was formerly known as Zama, which meant ‘to dawn’. Given its location, this name seems apt. The site was named ‘Tulum’ before the visit by explorers Stephens and Catherwood in the year 1841. This was just before the Caste War of 1847. Here the city was abandoned and left to ruins. Clearing of trees was ordered. Catherwood made several illustrations of temples, which was later published in the book ‘Incidents of Travel in Yucatan’. The discovery of Tulum is often attributed to Juan José Galvez.
The site goes back to the year AD 564. An inscription on a stele indicates this. Tulum thus belongs to the Classic period. The city witnessed activity much later from 1200 to 1521 AD. This was during the post classic period. Tulum served as a major link in extensive trade network of Maya. The city saw a convergence of maritime and land routes.
Artifacts excavated from the site indicate contacts from Central Mexico to Central America. Copper rattles and rings indicate presence of Mexican highland culture. Flint and ceramics were obtained from the Yucatán jade. Juan de Grijalva and his men were perhaps the first Europeans to see Tulum. They sailed along the east coast of Yucatán in 1518. Spaniards returned years later to conquer the peninsula. They brought with them Old World diseases that destroyed the native population. Thus, similar to many cities Tulum lay abandoned.
Visitors get a glimpse of Tulum’s main center both ceremonially and politically when they arrive at the pre-hispanic site. The city was encircled monumentally by Mayan’s best known wall. A large number of wooden and palm houses were situated around this wall. Presently, this area cannot be accessed, and there exists no evidence of these houses.
The square, which lies at the center of the city, was in all probability used for ceremonies and rituals. It is flanked by a Castillo or castle to the west. The Castillo is often touted as the tallest building in Tulum. It is often referred to as the lighthouse. It is situated on the bluff mentioned above. It offers a breathtaking view of the ocean and coast. This structure underwent several stages of construction. The upper rooms are carved with the motif of the plumed serpent. Rooms are vaulted in classical style of Mayan culture.
The Temple of the Descending God is another intriguing structure. The facade comprises a figure that is sculpted head down. The inner walls show traces of ancient pigments used by the Mayan people. The figure is thought to represent a deity, where Tulum appears to be at the center of the cult.
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