Maya and Aztec

Ancient Mesoamerican civilizations

Ancient Toltec Civilization

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The Aztecs were strongly influenced by a culture that inhab­ited the Valley of Mexico long before they rose to power in the fourteenth century. These advanced people were called the Toltec, and they reached a very high cultural level. The Toltec were masters of architecture, art, medicine, engineer­ing, and calendrics. They were deeply religious, and deeply devoted to human sacrifice. I heir capital was called Tula or Tollan, and it was located in the state of Hidalgo approxi­mately 60 miles north of Mexico City. Here, using masonry, and precision craftsmanship, they built homes, temples, and palaces. The Toltec rose to power after the collapse of Teotihuacan.

Toltec acquired skills from other cultures, especially the descendants of the Teotihuacan. They cast objects out of metal, made writing paper, wove textiles of colored cotton, were remarkable in astronomy, and made incredible headdresses out of exotic feathers. Toltec ceramics also developed to a high level. Some of the ceramic styles were believed to be inherited from the previous Teotihuacan culture. The Toltec were so respected that virtually every tribe in the region claimed Toltec ancestry.

Tula (Tollan) It is believed that the remarkable progress of Tula was largely due to great leadership. Their greatest ruler was a man named Topiltzin. According to legend, during the wars of conquest, in the town of Cuahuanahac (Cuernavaca), the Toltec leader named Mixcoatl met a woman named Chimalma, by whom she bore a son. However, before the baby was born Mixcoatl was assassinated. Shortly afterward, the mother died during childbirth. The boy was named Ce Acatl Topiltzin. Topiltzin was taken in by his grandparents who taught him the religion of his ancestors and the adoration of the god Quetzalcoatl. Later, when Topiltzin had grown, he would retake the lands of his father and establish the city of Tula. Under his rule the Toltec made incred­ible progress in almost every area. Topiltzin did not like human sacrifice. At first, he tried to restrict it, and eventually he eliminated it altogether. This put him at odds with many of his people and eventually forced him to leave Tula.

After Topiltzin left Tula there was a rapid succession of chieftains. This led to a period of cultural decay that was heightened by long periods of drought. By 1156 AD, the last of the Toltec rulers were forced to move out of Tula by invading Nahua tribes. The displaced Toltecs moved in all directions, with many of them as­similating into other cultures.

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Cindy Whitehead

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