The Toltec world flourished in ancient main Mexico in between the 10th and also mid-12th centuries. Continuing the Mesoamerican heritage left to them by earlier cultures, the Toltecs built an impressive resources at Tollan. Ultimately, they passed on that heritage to human beings such as the Aztecs, who regarded the Toltecs together a great and thriving civilization, even claiming lower from them.

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Most details on the Toltec comes from Aztec and also Post-colonial texts documenting previously oral traditions. However, these space by no method complete, and also information have the right to be coloured by the Aztec"s specific reverence for all points Toltec and also their happiness in merging legend with fact to help establish a family tree with these old masters. Nevertheless, a cautious comparison with previously Mayan texts and also the surviving archaeological record does allow for at least the main aspects of this civilization to be outlined.

Origins & Spread

The Toltecs had roots in the Tolteca-Chichimeca people, who, during the nine century, had actually migrated native the deserts that the north-west come Culhuacan in the valley of Mexico. Follow to the Aztecs, the first Toltec leader was Ce Técpatl Mixcoatl (One Flint Cloud Serpent, i.e. The Milky Way), and his kid Ce Acatl Topiltzin (One Reed Sacrificer, born in one of two people 935 or 947) would certainly go on to gain fame as a great ruler and acquire the surname of the great god Quetzalcoatl ("Feathered Serpent") among his titles.

The an initial settlement the the Toltecs was at Culhuacan, yet they later created a resources at Tollan (Tula).

The an initial settlement the the Toltecs to be at Culhuacan, however they later established a funding at Tollan (or Tula, definition "place that reeds", a general Mesoamerican phrase to use to all big settlements). The city flourished to one area the 14 km² and acquired a population of in between 30,000 and 40,000. The love of the city to be laid the end in a grid pattern and also it is remarkably similar to the Mayan city of Chichen Itza. Intriguingly, the Maya also had a version of a cultural hero recognized as the "Feathered Serpent", interpreted as Kukulcan and modern-day with the Toltec Quetzalcóatl; this and also architectural similarities, suggest that there to be a close social link between the two civilizations.


The Tollan the Aztec mythology to be renowned for its sumptuous palaces and also awe-inspiring structures made indigenous gold, jade, turquoise, and also quetzal feathers. The city was also thought to have actually been flooded through wealth produced by the gifted Toltec craftsmen, highly expert in metallurgy and pottery - so lot so the their potters were said to have actually "taught the clay to lie" (Coe, 156) and also later Aztec metal-workers and jewellers were also known as tolteca. The Toltecs were likewise credited through mastering nature and also producing huge maize crops and natural coloured noodle of red, yellow, green, and also blue. Unsurprisingly, adhering to centuries the looting, no artefacts make it through to attest this material wealth except indications the the Toltecs did execute a significant trade in obsidian (used for blades and also arrowheads) which to be mined from surrounding Pachuca.


The historical site that Tollan, sitting on a limestone promontory, return not rather as splendid together the legend, nevertheless, has an impressive number of surviving monuments. These encompass two large pyramids, a collonaded walkway, a huge palace building, and two ball-courts, all surrounding by a dense area of metropolitan housing. The domestic housing is arranged in groups of up to 5 flat-roofed residences v each group centred top top a courtyard v a solitary altar and also the totality surrounded by a wall.

The Toltec were a warlike people, no doubt conquering surrounding tribes & imposing tribute without any type of concern because that integration.

Surviving architecture sculpture top top the pyramids includes big columns, each consisting of 4 drums, carved as warriors standing atop the 5 tiers of the 10 m high Pyramid B. The warriors would certainly once have held increase a roof structure. The warriors are dressed all set for fight with a north headdress and butterfly pectoral and each holds an atlatl or spear-thrower at their side. In addition, feathered-snake columns make it through from the original doorway. The warrior columns space near-identical and also suggest innovative workshops capable of fixed production.

Friezes run around the pyramids and also a free-standing 40 m lengthy L-shaped wall (known together a coatepantli and a Toltec innovation). They present scenes with pets such together the jaguar, wolf, and also coyote (symbols associated with a warlike people like the Toltecs), and also sacrifice (especially rattlesnakes and skeletons intertwined). There are also images the feathered creatures (perhaps jaguars) and eagles through hearts in your mouths.

Tollan additionally provides the very first examples the chacmools, the reclining stone warriors clutching a vessel on your stomach to get sacrificial offerings because that the gods. These would come to be a usual feature of holy places in Mesoamerica. At Tollan they space positioned next to bench-thrones atop the pyramid temple.



What ended the Toltec civilization"s local dominance is not known. A warlike people, no doubt conquering surrounding tribes and also imposing tribute without any type of concern for integration right into the Toltec politics and spiritual culture, the "empire" may well have actually simply broke down when placed under the stress, overload of such natural phenomena as a sustained drought. Internal disputes may additionally have brought about the rest up that the strength structure, and this is hinted in ~ in the legendary stories of battles in between the gods Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca, linked with historic figures. What is much more certain is that in the mid-12th century, Tollán shows indicators of violent destruction; numerous architectural columns and also statues to be burnt and also purposely buried and also the site was systematically plunder by the Aztecs. Led by the last Toltec leader Huemac, the remnants that the Toltec human being re-settled in ~ Chapultepec on the west banks of Lake Texcoco, an event traditionally dated either 1156 or 1168.


The Toltec name brought a details prestige and they were really highly concerned by the Maya and also the Aztecs, in particular, that seem come have copied many elements of Toltec religious practices and art and looked ~ above the Toltec duration as a golden era as soon as such wonders as writing, medicine, and metallurgy to be invented. These may well have been created earlier and by rather but more certain is the Toltec influence on architecture and also sculpture. Photos of recognisable deities at Tollan which would certainly later appear in the Aztec pantheon incorporate Centeotl, Xochiquetzal, Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli and also the feathered serpent figured out with Quetzalcoatl. Rock carvings the cuauhxicalli vessels and chacmools offered in sacrifices and also tzompantli (skull racks) all attest to the affect the Toltecs would have on their more famous successors. In any case, everything the actual heritage of the world of Tollan, for the Aztecs it was the Toltecs and no other that lock sought to case descent from, and also the size of their reverence and also respect is evidenced in the Aztec expression Toltecayotl or "to have a Toltec heart" which supposed to be worthy and also to excel in all things.

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Mark is a history writer based in Italy. His one-of-a-kind interests include pottery, architecture, civilization mythology and also discovering the concepts that all civilizations share in common. He holds an MA in political Philosophy and also is the posting Director in ~ WHE.