Tula and Teotihuacan

The archaeological zones of Tula and Teotihuacan are only about an hour apart, and the much smaller site at Tula can be visited in about half a day. It is also a much less visited site, yet contains a very informative museum. Other than a busload or two of well behaved students, there were only a handful of visitors besides ourselves. Located little more than an hour from San Miguel we decided to visit Tula first before heading over to nearby Teotihuacan where accommodations are more plentiful. It also felt quite laid-back and we were completely comfortable to leave all of our gear on top of the bikes while we spent a couple of hours doing a leisurely tour of the site. A security person in the parking lot was more than willing to keep his eye on our gear even without the gratuity that we had to insist he take.

The watchman's dog took an immediate interest in Karen's riding boots. At top right is a better view of this archaeologically appropriate companion. Typically having a completely hairless gray leathery skin the xoloitzcuintli or xolos as they are now known have only a few stiff bristles at the back of the head that stand up when the dog is in a defensive mode. They also have a small tuft at the very tip of the tail . The breed predates the Aztec period and indeed their name is made up of two Nahuatl words Xolotl, which means god and itcuintli or dog. There is some evidence that the dogs were also a source of protein. This one also took a playful interest with these interesting and ubiquitous butterflies as well as these 3/4 inch long ants. The butterflies were identical except for size with some we encountered in Taman Negara in Malaysia. At seven to eight inches across, those butterflies were nearly twice as big as these.

Experts are divided on the history of this site, but it is considered to be the capital of the Toltec empire. There are many architectural similarities to the much more well known site of Chichen Itza located in the Yucatan some thousand land miles away. What complicates the issue is that Chichen Itza flourished during the Late Classic and Terminal Classic Mayan periods (600 -900 CE), while Tula, or Tollan as it is sometimes known, served as the capital around 980 of the current era after the much larger nearby Teotihuacan. Tula met its demise in the latter part of the 12th century CE, giving rise to the question of which direction these shared features traveled. The many columns, like those below, bear striking resemblances to those at Chichen Itza.

Like a similar area found at the Chichen Itza site, this grouping of columns at left would indicate an area that once supported a stone roof. In the museum, this bench-like ceremonial altar, or chacmul is just like those found at Chichen Itza right down to the bowl-like recess in the stomach thought to be used to hold the sacrificial heart. I need to point out that I have been visiting Mexico for some 40 plus years now, and after attending college for the first time in my early fifties my studies in Anthropology have given this country some very new meaning for me. So if I appear to ramble on and on about things archaeological, or about indigenous peoples, it is more of a case of trying to place these things in some sort of frame of reference for my own failing memory, than to be a source of information for anybody or anything. Like any of the free information to be found all over the internet, you are getting exactly what you pay for.

After settling in in the town near Teotihuacan, we decided to begin our visit as early as possible the next day. We were unaware of this method for gaining an overview of the site, but in the early morning calm we found ourselves quite envious of the folks enjoying this approach. The balloons do help give an element of scale to the photo though. The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest structure at the site. I recall several years ago the anthro community was in an uproar when Walmart had announced plans to locate one of its big box stores less than two mile from this site. Despite the valiant effort, the parking lot is clearly visible from the top.

This view of the pyramid of the moon is taken from the top of the pyramid of the sun. It enjoys a place of prominence at the head of the Calzado de los Muertos (Avenue of the Dead).

The view down the Calzado from atop the Pyramid de la Luna shows the symmetry of the adjacent structures. In the photo at right below are the altars as they are seen looking down from the Pyramid of the moon. They are mirrored on the opposite side of the calzado. They are considered the classic examples of the talud and tablero architectural style found throughout mesoamerica. The other photos are some of the many friezes and glyphs that can be seen all along the calzado. They are (counterclockwise from top left) the jaguar the serpent's head and a feathered ceremonial mask.

The many amazing artifacts on display in Teo's sprawling museum are simply too numerous to mention. This assemblage depicting Teotihuacan's agricultural deity is just one meager example.

Across from the museum the delicate and painstaking  process of new excavation is an unending endeavor at Teotihuacan (top left). The town itself is not without its own beauty. Above we were able to find an enjoyable spot for a picnic, and the town was also apparently known for its creative confections  (bottom left). There were several bakeries with glass display cases in the front of the store vying for the pesos of hungry passers-by. Avery handsome Mexican style roast chicken unfortunately was unable to linger long enough for its photo session.