On the eastern coast of Yucatan lies the ruins of the Maya city, Tulum. Tulum when compared to some of the other Maya cities is unique, because of the city walls. The word Tulum itself means wall, trench, or fence. Walls surround Tulum to the north, south and west side, and cliffs on the East Side provide a natural barrier. Because Tulum was located close to the Caribbean trade was possible with other cities.
This is thought to have been constructed for the use of defense. There are five entrances two to the north, two to the south, and one in the west. On the southwest and northwest corners are small temples which could have been watchtowers.
This area contains the most important buildings and must have been the big highlight of this city. The main structures are the Castle, the Temple of Descending God and the Temple of the Initial Series. The remaining structures consist of temples, shrines and a platform. The temples are structures 2, 3, 4, 10, and 11. The shrines are numbers, 6 and 7, and number 8 is a platform, most likely used for dances and other spectacles. The temples of the Inner precinct are one-roomed except for structure 4 which has a small shrine, and temples 10 & 3 where there are columns inside. The shrines can be distinguished from the temples because they are lower. The platform for dance, with a stairway on two of its sides are commonly found in Maya area. Found below is a plan of Tulum.
The tallest building in Tulum this must have been seen to onlookers as a tower. The castle was built on at different periods giving reason for the shape. Standing in the east this structure rests almost on the edge of the cliff. Evidence here show that originally the central area was made up of a double gallery built on a terrace with inclined walls, reached by a stairway with ramps. The central part of the galleries were filled in at the second stage of construction. A narrow passage was left in the fill between the north and south sections where figures were painted on the different layers of stucco.
Although there are several temples in Tulum dedicated to the Descending God only one has the name. The concept of the descending god existed in many Mesoamerican cultures. In Tulum he could have represented rain or lightning, but it is most commonly thought the represents the Bee God.
Temple of the Initial Series
This structure stands at the the southeast of the Inner Precinct. The entrance to its single chamber has a stone lintel outside and a wooden one inside. A frieze runs around the four sides, bordered by molding. Inside are the remains of a small alter on which stele were found. The date on it was 564 A.D.
This stands in the central part of the city. Like other structures in Tulum it was added on to at different stages. Originally it was simply a floor-level room. The entrance was in the west and there was a small alter at the far end. Later this chamber was surrounded on the south, north, and west sides by a gallery. At the third stage the building was reinforced to support the temple above.
House of the Chultun
Standing opposite of the temple of the Frescos, this structure now hardly looks like a structure. The roof here collapsed years ago. It consists of an entrance with two columns, and a wide inner gallery with a small shrine in the center. Another gallery was added with rooms behind and a small doorway. Again inside there was something to symbolize the descending god.
House of the Columns
This building is sometimes referred to as the Great Palace, and stands to the north of the Temple of the Frescos. It was the largest residential structure in Tulum. The main feature of this building is the outer gallery. The inner chamber is long and in the center of the rear wall is a small shrine.
House of the Cenote
This temple was built at two different periods. In its first stage it was a two-roomed building, later a small chamber was added on the southwest corner. At the present the building has four corridors, the east with two columns and two benches inside. The west contains a shrine.
Temple of the Wind
This is located north of the small beach in the bay that curves into the site. The entrance to the single room is in the north. The important feature is that it stands on a a circular platform, recalling other parts of Mesoamerica.
This contains only one room, looking out onto the Caribbean. Remains of a small alter can be seen inside.
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