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Tulum among the most visited historical sites in Mexico

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 8th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Tulum ruins are among the most visited archaeological site, in Mexico, preceded by Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza. Located on a cliff overlooking the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, Tulum is a spectacular Mayan settlement that flourished from around 1200 AD until the arrival of the Spanish.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Located south of the popular beach resort of Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula, Tulum is an easy day trip by bus.

Tulum is one of the small city-states that rose to fill the void, when Maya civilization had begun its decline in the tenth century and the large cities to the south were abandoned. Tulum established prominence in the 13th century AD as a seaport. It controlled maritime commerce along this section of the coast from Honduras to the Yucatán.

Diego de Landa, the third bishop of the Yucatán recorded that Tulum was a small city inhabited by about 600 people who lived in platform dwellings along a street and who supervised the trade traffic. Though it was a walled city, most of the inhabitants probably lived outside the walls, leaving the interior for the residences of governors and priests and ceremonial structures.

Unlike other Mayan sites, Tulum remained inhabited about 70 years after the Conquest, when it was finally abandoned. However, local Maya continued to visit the temples to burn incense and pray until the late 20th century, when tourists visiting the site became too numerous.

The name of the site, which means "enclosure," is probably modern. Its original name is believed to have been Zama, or "Dawn," reflecting the west-east alignment of its buildings.

The Tulum site is surrounded 16 feet thick wall on three sides, interrupted by five gates. The entrance to the ruins is about a five minute walk from the archaeological site. The city square includes artisans' stands, a bookstore, a museum, a restaurant, several large bathrooms and a ticket booth.

Among the many sights at Tulum, the Temple of the Frescoes was used as an observatory for tracking the movements of the sun. It contains interesting 13th-century frescoes, though visitors are no longer permitted to enter.

Distinctly Maya, the frescoes represent the rain god Chaac and Ixchel, the goddess of weaving, women, the moon, and medicine. Supernatural serpents are also a common motif. On the cornice of this temple is a relief of the head of the rain god. If you pause a slight distance from the building, you'll see the eyes, nose, mouth, and chin. Remains of the red-painted stucco can still be seen.

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