Tulum is the site of a pre-Columbian Mayan walled city that served as a major port for the ancient city of Coba, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Tulum is situated on the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Maya.
Tulum is the site of a pre-Columbian Mayan walled city that served as a major port for the ancient city of Coba, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. One of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites, Tulum is today a popular site for tourists.
Tulum was protected on one side by steep sea cliffs and on the landward side by a wall that averaged about 3 - 5 m (10 - 16 ft) in height. The wall also was about 8 m (26 ft) thick and 400 m (1,300 ft) long on the side parallel to the sea. It is this impressive wall that makes Tulum one of the most well-known fortified sites of the Maya.
Tulum stands on a bluff facing east toward the Caribbean Sea. Tulúm is also the Yucatán Mayan word for fence, wall or trench. The wall surrounding the site allowed the Tulum fort to be defended against invasions.
Constructing this massive wall would have taken an enormous amount of energy and time, which shows how important defense was to the Maya when they chose this site.
On the southwest and northwest corners there are small structures that have been identified as watch towers, showing again how well defended the city was.
There are five narrow gateways in the wall with two each on the north and south sides and one on the west. Near the northern side of the wall, a small cenote provided the city with fresh water.
Situated on the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, both coastal and land routes converged at Tulum. A number of artifacts found in or near the site show contacts with areas all over Central Mexico and Central America.
One of the last cities built and inhabited by the Maya, Tulum was at its height between the 13th and 15th centuries and managed to survive about 70 years after the Spanish began occupying Mexico.
Old World diseases brought by the Spanish settlers appear to have resulted in very high fatalities, disrupting the society and eventually causing the city to be abandoned.
There are three major structures of interest at the Tulum archaeological site.
Temple of the Frescoes was used as an observatory for tracking the movements of the sun. The temple included a lower gallery and a smaller second-story gallery. Niched figurines of the Maya "diving god" or Venus deity decorate the facade of the temple.
Temple of the Descending God consists of a single room with a door to the west and a narrow staircase that was built on top of another temple that served as its base. In the niche located at the top of the door stands a sculpture that’s found throughout Tulum. He has wings, a headdress and holds an object in his hands.
El Castillo, which is 7.5 m (25 ft) tall, was built on a previous building that was colonnaded and had a beam and mortar roof. The lintels in the upper rooms have serpent motifs carved into them. The construction of El Castillo appears to have taken place in stages. A small shrine appears to have been used as a beacon for incoming canoes.