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Tulum

Tulum is the site of a pre-Columbian Mayan walled city which served as a major port for Coba, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. The ruins are situated on 12-meter tall cliffs along the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula on the Caribbean Sea in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. Tulum was one of the last cities inhabited by the Maya. Old World diseases brought by the Spanish settlers appear to have resulted in high fatalities, disrupting the society and causing the city to be abandoned. One of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites, Tulum is today a popular site for tourists; the site might have been called meaning City of Dawn, because it faces the sunrise. Tulum stands on a bluff facing east toward the Caribbean Sea. Tulúm is the Yucatán Mayan word for fence, wall or trench; the walls surrounding the site allowed the Tulum fort to be defended against invasions. Tulum had access to both land and sea trade routes, making it an important trade hub for obsidian. From numerous depictions in murals and other works around the site, Tulum appears to have been an important site for the worship of the Diving or Descending god.

Tulum was first mentioned by Juan Díaz, a member of Juan de Grijalva's Spanish expedition of 1518, the first Europeans to spot Tulum. The first detailed description of the ruins was published by John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood in 1843 in the book Incidents of Travel in Yucatan; as they arrived from the sea and Catherwood first saw a tall building that impressed them most the great Castillo of the site. They made accurate maps of the site's walls, Catherwood made sketches of the Castillo and several other buildings. Stephens and Catherwood reported an early classic stele at the site, with an inscribed date of AD 564; this has been interpreted as meaning that the stele was built elsewhere and brought to Tulum to be reused. Work conducted at Tulum continued with that of Sylvanus Morley and George P. Howe, beginning in 1913, they worked to open the public beaches. The work was continued by the Carnegie Institution from 1916 to 1922, Samuel Lothrop in 1924 who mapped the site, Miguel Ángel Fernández in the late 1930s and early 1940s, William Sanders in 1956, later in the 1970s by Arthur G. Miller.

Through these investigations done by Sanders and Miller, it has been determined that Tulum was occupied during the late Postclassic period around AD 1200. The site continued to be occupied. By the end of the 16th century, the site was abandoned completely. Tulum has architecture typical of Maya sites on the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula; this architecture is recognized by a step running around the base of the building which sits on a low substructure. Doorways of this type are narrow with columns used as support if the building is big enough; as the walls flare out there are two sets of molding near the top. The room contains one or two small windows with an altar at the back wall, roofed by either a beam-and-rubble ceiling or being vaulted; this type of architecture resembles what can be found in the nearby Chichen Itza, just on a much smaller scale. Tulum was protected on one side by steep sea cliffs and on the landward side by a wall that averaged about 3–5 meters in height; the wall was about 8 m thick and 400 m long on the side parallel to the sea.

The part of the wall that ran the width of the site was shorter and only about 170 meters on both sides. 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, it is this impressive wall. There are three major structures of interest at the Tulum archaeological site. El Castillo, the Temple of the Frescoes, the Temple of the Descending God. Among the more spectacular buildings here is the Temple of the Frescoes that included a lower gallery and a smaller second story gallery; the Temple of the Frescoes was used as an observatory for tracking the movements of the sun.

Niched figurines of the Maya “diving god” or Venus deity decorate the facade of the temple. This “diving god” is depicted in the Temple of the Diving God in the central precinct of the site. Above the entrance in the western wall a stucco figure of the “diving god” is still preserved, giving the temple its name. A mural can still be seen on the eastern wall that resembles that of a style that originated in highland Mexico, called the Mixteca-Puebla style, though visitors are no longer permitted to enter; the Temple of the Descending God consists of a single room with a door to the west and a narrow staircase, 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 holds an object in his hands. In the central precinct is the Castillo, 7.5 m tall. The Castillo was built on a previous building, colonnaded and had a beam and mortar roof; the lintels in the upper rooms hav

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