Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tulum - the walled city

My honey knows my love for all things ancient so we spent a day visiting the ancient Mayan city of Tulum. It stands on a bluff facing the rising sun looking out on views of the Caribbean that are nothing less than spectacular. In Maya, Tulum means "Wall", and the city was christened thus because it is a walled city...a protected city; one of the very few the ancients ever built.   It is walled in on all three sides and faces the sea. You can only enter the city through the few doorways that were guarded at that time or by the sea and only if you knew when and where to sail through.  This entire area is protected by a natural reef that acts as a barrier to uninvited ships and it is only through the gatekeepers wave in at the precise part of the reef that they could gain access into Tulum.  

The earliest date lifted from the site is A.D. 564 which places Tulum within the Classic period, although its heyday was much later (1200 - 1521 A.D.) during the Late Post-classic period or what is considered the era of the collapse of the Mayan Empire.  Tulum was found abandoned by the Spaniards during the ongoing conquest of the peninsula, so this city was not destroyed by war.  It is as intact as it was when the people left it hundreds of years ago and only the jungle that covered it shielded the natural aging of the site.

Tulum was a major link in the Maya's extensive trade network, a true city of commerce with only the wealthiest residents living within the walls. The common, working villagers lived outside the walls and would enter the city for market days, maritime commerce and religious festivities.   Both maritime and land routes converged here.

This site has ruins which are characteristic of the Post Classic period of ancient Maya civilization which are smaller buildings and temples and located closer to each other.

We entered the park around 10:00 am and we were blessed with perfect weather for walking in the Mexican sun.  Overcast and cloudy most of the day, we were shielded from the heat of the sun and it also provided low humidity's.  Like most national parks found anywhere in the world, we were assaulted with their gift shops and street performers. This handsome guy greeted us with drumming and flute music.  (all photos enlarge by clicking on them)

Once we walked beyond the shops we had about a 1/4 mile walk through the jungle path and then came upon the entrance to the old city wall.

It was narrow and low and many of the taller folks had to bend their head down to get through.

The rocky wall surrounds the city and you begin to see the remains of buildings, large and small, all against a field of green and sky.  The size of this community belies your first entry.  It is vast and full of well ordered streets and residences.

It was still mid morning and these are the crowds that were before my eyes.  This is a well loved  park by the locals and is popular as Chitzen Itza to visitors as well.   Reminded me very much of our nation's love for the Grand Canyon.  Always packed with our own citizens.

Large personal residence of a family of wealth.  I am always fascinated with the very square and angular structure of these buildings as they always seem to have cylindrical columns in the front of the residence.  All of them either face the main streets or overlook the beauty of the ocean...no different then modern housing, especially for those of means.

These square, stone foundations are not foundations but markers for merchants who come to trade.  They are different sizes and are all in the middle of Tulum and its streets.  I quickly saw myself staking out the "perfect location" for any wares I may want to sell.

A few of the smaller temples found throughout.

Looking at the main temple, El Castillo, from a large residence.

The smaller building is both an observatory and a temple, Temple of the Descending God, which is to the left of El Castillo (The Castle) and main temple when looking out to sea.  Above the door of the temple is a stucco relief of a figure prevalent at Tulum, the upside-down winged god also referred to as the "diving god" because of its upside position.  (As a diver, this was of great interest to me and I am now looking to obtain a pendant with this figure on it to wear.  Seems like the perfect talisman for a Sea Witch.)

The above photo is not mine.  In order to protect the land and the integrity of this temple, the area was roped off and visitors could not get close to it.  It was too far for me to get a closeup of the "diving god" in the top center of the building.  If you look through the doorway you will notice a very tiny window.  This window is no bigger than about 4 inches in height and width.  During the day of summer solstice at 6am, the sun is perfectly aligned with the center of the Tulum Temple opening, as it is during the winter solstice and spring and fall equinoxes. The nobility controlled the commons with this knowledge.  

The Mayan concern for understanding the cycles of celestial bodies, particularly the Sun, the Moon and Venus, led them to accumulate a large set of highly accurate observations. An important aspect of their cosmology was the search for major cycles, in which the position of several objects repeated such as the sun aligning perfectly each solstice and equinox at the exact same spot and time.The Mayans carried out astronomical measurements with remarkable accuracy yet they had no instruments other than sticks. They used two sticks in the form of a cross, viewing astronomical objects through the right angle formed by the sticks.

This proud guy was sunning himself on a temple foundation when he decided to come down and check the tourists out.  I managed to pique his interest enough to come about 4 feet from me as I took several photos of him.  When too many other folks joined me he slowly crawled back up the temple steps.

This is the view from behind the observatory and main temple.  Incredible beauty and lovely turquoise green waters.  Tomorrow I will post more pictures of this view and closeups of some of the Tulum buildings. Have a wonderful day.  Sea Witch


OmaLindasOldeBaggsandStuftShirts said...

Gorgeous pictures. Thanks so much for sharing. The picture that is my fav is of the iguana. I had one for 14 years that was 5ft long and weighed a ton. Her name was Beizelbub. Of all the animals I have ever had, she was my favorite. Loved to eat Rose of Sharon Flowers in the spring. Thanks for bring back a great feeling upon seeing your pix. Your vacation sounds wonderful. By the way I saw Nobody's Fool.....Vaya con huevos, now I understand. LOL

alice said...

AH Miz Sea Witch,
I love the last picture. I know how Majestic the view is! I loved your commentary also. The fisrt time we were there there were no parking lots or venders. We were spoiled to see it mainly alone. I am thrilled for you and this wonderful post. Big thanks.
smiles, alice

Michelle May-The Raspberry Rabbits said...

Incredible! I think because I never go anywhere that blogland is more special to me than ever. I can travel the world through my friends. Too cool!
your friend,

FrenchBlue said...

How truly beautiful~~
Bless us all in the holy waters~~

Bettyann said...

aaahhh takes me back to may 2001..we were there for 1 week on 25th anniversary..thanks for helping me remember the beautiful area...

Queen "B" said...

Aloha from Hauula, HI
I too love the Sea,Antiques and Family and I enjoyed your blog,looking forward to reading more
New Year Wishes

Jacque said...

WOW...great pics and documentary! I know you had a great time. I can't wait to see more pics! Good luck finding that talisman!

Have a great week.

Javajune said...

It looks and sounds so wonderful. I love ancient as well. I peeked at your both in the previous post- it looks wonderful!
enjoy your day

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

This was wonderful! Great photos and interesting commentary. I would love to visit the Mayan ruins. I'm glad that they are preserving them.