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the Toltecs, artisans, scholars, priests and fearsome warriors

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Kara Sundstrom
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« on: April 24, 2010, 08:52:16 pm »

The Toltecs, what is known and not known

Despite the fact that the word “Toltec” is almost as well recognized as “Aztec” and “Maya” among laymen in the United States, much of their culture seems now to more of an enigma than ever.  Many “facts” found in books published during the past fifty years, now have turned out to be questionable, or clearly not true.  Anthropologists today are not even sure what ethnic group the Toltecs were . . . or if they were composed of several ethnic groups?  The word “Toltec” roughly means “artists or scholars” in Aztec-Nahuatl. Anthropologists do not know if this is the name that the Toltecs called themselves.

After the decline and ultimate abandonment of Teotihuacan around 750 AD,  nomadic Nahuatl-speaking peoples from northern Mexico migrated into the Central Highlands. The indigenous Otomi and Totonac Peoples were pushed eastward and southward.  The ancestors of the Aztecs were among several Chichimeka tribes that occupied the Valley of Mexico.

Around 900 AD a major city was begun north of Mexico City in the State of Hidalgo that is now known as Tollan, or by its Spanish name of Tula.  However, Tollan might not have even been its real name, because Tollan means “Place of Reeds” – the same name that the Mayas gave in their language to Teotihuacan. (See article on Teotihuacan.)  “Place of Reeds” may have come to mean “major city or capital” in Mesoamerica. 

The architecture of Tollan was much more geometric and symmetrical than typical Maya cities. It had a definite, masculine, martial feeling to it.  Architectural styles were  similar to those of Teotihuacan, but not at such a grand scale. There are several earthen pyramids in the United States which are larger than any of the pyramids built by the Toltecs. However, their temples were truncated rectangular pyramids that were similar in form to the earthen pyramids being built simultaneously in the Mississippi River Basin and Southeast.  The central core of Tollan included rectangular plazas defined by both vertical landmarks and horizontal public structures. See the drawing above.
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