The History of the Toltecs


Under Quetzalcoatl's Leadership, the Toltecs built an impressive metropolis at Tula. The architectural style was visually dramatic and innovative. Stately columns provided elegant walkways for the warriors who gathered for important ceremonies. The columns were also used as structural supports for the larger temple rooms that were needed for group activities. The temple entrances were framed by great, serpent-columns which supported massive lintels across each entrance. Their open jaws extended forward to flank the temple doorway, their bodies formed the sides, and their tails swept up in a squared S-shape to support the framework of the door.



The Transition from the small, exclusive temples of the Classic period to these open, colonnaded structures of the Postclassic, reflects the changing times. The new temples were built for active group participation while the temples of the Classic Period were only used by the priests. However, as impressive in design as these new buildings were, inferior building materials were used, and the clay bricks and coarse stones soon succumbed to the ravages of time. These Toltec temples were evidently very rapidly constructed to accommodate the needs of a large population, rather than painstakingly built to last through the centuries.



The Toltec/Maya at Chichen Itza

Splinter groups of the Toltec warriors began to migrate beyond their territorial boundaries in the Valley of Mexico long before Quetzalcoatl's abdication. There is evidence that their explorations extended as far as the Maya homeland, on the Yucatan Peninsular, several times during the 10th century. According to the Mayan Chronicles in the books of Chilam Balam, one very special group of Toltec invaders came to the Yucatan in the year of Quetzalcoatl's abdication and conquered the ancient Maya city of Chicen. They were led by a high Priest called "Kulkulcan", the Maya word meaning "Plumed Serpent". There is no evidence that Kulkulcan and Quetzalcoatl were the same man. The records for this invasion indicate that Kulkulcan was a bloodthirsty conqueror far different from the gentle leader at Tula who bore the same name. The only proven fact is that a band of Toltec warriors, led by a man called Kulkulcan, arrived in Chichen Itza in A.D. 987.



The Toltecs, who came to Chicen Itza, built a whole new section in the ancient Maya City they conquered, and recreated the image of Tula. Some of the striking similarities between the two cities are: the extensive use of the column in architecture, serpent-form columns to flank temple entrances, reclining Chacmool figures, tzompantlis, and jaguar and eagle symbols that identify the warrior orders of the Toltecs.





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