Mayan History (Part 57): Tulum

Tulum is on the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula.  It was built on 12m-high cliffs.

During the Postclassic Period [950-1200], Tulum was a major port for the city of Cobá, further inland.  It had walls (unlike most Mayan cities) – 6m thick in some places, and 4.5-6.0m tall.  It has five narrow openings, which can fit one person at a time.  Tulum was on trade routes both on land and sea, especially for obsidian.

Tulum was ruled over by Mayapan.  It seems to have been an important site for the worship of the Diving/Descending god.  Their population was 1,000-1,600.

The city survived for about 70 years after the Spanish arrived, which was unusual.  By the end of the 1500’s, it had been abandoned completely.

The Temple of the Frescoes was an observatory for tracking the sun’s movements.  It has a lower gallery, and a smaller 2nd-storey gallery. Its façade has depictions of the Mayan diving-god.

Temple of the Frescoes.

The Temple of the Diving God is smaller, and in the central part of the site.  It is called that because the diving-god is depicted in stucco on the western wall.

Temple of the Diving God.

El Castillo is a 7.5m-tall pyramid.  It was built in stages, on an already-existing building.  There is a small shrine, which would have been used as a beacon for incoming trade canoes.  It lines up exactly with a break in the barrier reef, through which the canoes would enter a cove and landing beach.

El Castillo.

The ruins from the air.

Looking towards the harbour.

Mayan History (Part 58): Cobá

Cobá is about 48km inland, and Tulum was its port.  It was at the centre of the largest Mayan stone-causeway road network.  The most well-preserved road links it with Yaxuna, about 100km east (a bit south of Chichén Itzá.  This road had to cross numerous swamps on its way.  Another road links it with Xel Há, which is another port just north of Tulum.

Cobá was founded between 50 BC and 100 AD, as a town.  There were wooden buildings with palm fronts and flat platforms.  This is known from pottery fragments.

After 100 AD, the region around the town grew in population.  Cobá’s political & social status increased, and it would eventually become one of the most powerful city-states in the Northern Yucatán.

During the 200’s to the 500’s, Cobá dominated the region around it, including parts of East Yucatán.  The city owed its power to its control over large areas of farmland, trading routes, and water resources.

After 600 AD, other powerful city-states emerged within the Puuc culture, and so did Chichén Itzá.  From 900/1000 AD, Cobá struggled against Chichén Itzá, and after 1000 AD, lost much of its political power.

However, it did manage to keep some of its religious importance. There were new buildings constructed between 1200-1500 AD.  However, power and trade had shifted to the coast, so Cobá would never recover its status.  When the Spanish conquered the Yucatán Peninsula around 1550, Cobá had already been abandoned.

Cobá has many stelae that record events from the Late Classic Period [600-900 AD].  Many of its rulers were women.  There are traces of Teotihuacán architecture.

Nohoch Mul Pyramid, which is 42m high.

One of its two ball-courts.