Featured Sites: Tula

Tula - Warrior columns

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Tripart: 1997.005.103

Country: Mexico

Archaeological Site: Tula

Title: Tula - Warrior columns

Culture: Toltec

Date of Photograph: 1973

Photographer: Dr. Roy L. Carlson

Time Period: Postclassic

Location: Mexico; Hildalgo

Subject: Art Site

The Toltec site of Tula is well-positioned from a defensive standpoint, perched on a limestone outcrop with steep banks on three sides. The Toltecs aligned their city at 17º east of true north, like the structures at Teotihuacán, obliterating the true north orientation established by the first settlers in AD 700-900. Tula rose to prominence shortly after the fall of Teotihuacán, and flourished between AD 900 and 1150. Its population at that time may have reached 60,000. Pyramid B, or the Pyramid of the Morning Star, is the most impressive structure at Tula. The five-tiered pyramid displays a striking resemblance to the Temple of the Warriors at Chichén Itzá. A large vestibule in front of the main staircase once linked the pyramid to nearby buildings, but is now a sea of broken columns. On the pyramid's top tier are four massive column-like figures, representing Toltec Warriors, which once supported the roof of the temple. Each warrior carries an atlatl (spear thrower) and a pouch of incense, and wears a chest plate in the form of a stylized butterfly and a back plate in the form of a solar disc.A strong theme of war and sacrifice is evident at Tula. Panels of alternating jaguar and coyote images run along the north-east base of the Pyramid, with images of eagles eating human hearts beneath them. These three animals are important warrior symbols in Mesoamerican mythology.

Tula was burned in the 12th c. AD, and subsequently looted by the Aztecs.