Monday, 20 October 2008


I have cabin fever. So I am taking an imaginary trip this morning. I am going back to some of the places that I visited earlier this year. We visited the Tulum Mayan Ruins in April (?) and at the time I said I would do more indepth posts on this fascinating culture. So here I am again, travelling vicariously through my photos. The text below is taken from the site
TULUM - The name Tulum in Mayan refers to its fortress like walls, but the real Mayan name for the site was "Zama" which means dawn. The site is located an easy drive down the coast from Playa del Carmen and is also easily accessible from Valladolid via Cobá. The ruins at Tulum are now part of a National Park covering some 1600 acres, but the ancient city stretches along the coast for almost four miles. This royal city, perched on limestone cliffs seems to rise right out of the beautiful Caribbean Sea.

The ruins are from the post-classic era of the Maya civilization and are fortified. While walled cities are not normal for the Maya, they existed in many of the postclassic cities. Tulum rose to prominence around 1200 A.D. a little more than three hundred years before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. Astronomy and celestial navigation, maritime trade, even weather forecasting were among the Maya achievements at this small but powerful city state.

The Maya who inhabited the Island of Cozumel were known to worship the sun at sunrise. And even though the site was named Zama for dawn, the Maya at Tulum are known to have worshipped the setting sun.
Tulum, unlike many other Maya cities has been used as a fortress into the 20th century.
In 1518 the Spanish documented sighting, what is surely Tulum. They compared the city to Seville in Spain and noted that there was a very tall tower seen there. This is certainly a reference to the Castillo. During the Maya uprising of the War for the Castes, which began in 1847 and lasted until 1901, Tulum served as a fortress for the rebels. In 1871 it was used as a sanctuary by the cult of the "Speaking Cross" of Santa Cruz. They were led by the Indian woman Maria Uicab, who was also known as the patron saint of Tulum.

These iguanas are everywhere.
One of the most interesting things about the architectural precision of Tulum is the natural show that takes places during the summer solstice. On this date, the sun is perfectly aligned to beam, with laser-like intensity through the centre of the Tulum Temple opening. This was a major event for the community and the high priests (all members of the nobility) exerted a fair amount of control over the unsuspecting masses with this impressive event. There is a small stone pallet high on the hill that receives both the sun beams and moon rays of this impressive engineering and architectural feat. The events were much anticipated and attracted crowds from neighbouring communities with what sounds like the equivalent of a moden day concert. Our guide also mentioned that attendees would also have received mild hallucinogens to enhance their spiritual experiences. The idea behind all of this was to maintain control over the masses by showing alignment with the gods. This ensured a docile, tax paying worker base who were happy to keep the priest happy. In an interesting note; any form of physical or mental disability meant instant access to the noble classes. They were absorbed into the highest families and seen as being specially "chosen" by the Gods.