Key Points

Much that what is known around the Toltecs is based upon what has actually been learned about the Aztecs.Historicists think that Aztec accounts of the Toltecs deserve to be reliable as historic sources.Others believe that Aztec accounts room too shrouded in legend to be trusted as sources of truth.Certain Mayan sites, such as Chichén Itzá, re-publishing distinctive archeological traits with religious monuments and buildings in Tula.

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The feathered serpent deity that shows up in piece at Tula and also in much later on buildings and also mythology in the Aztec Empire.


A scholar that uses Aztec accounts of Toltec society to piece together the history of the Toltec people.

Atlantean figures

Gigantic rock statues the Toltec warriors that only appear at the website of Tula, Chichén Itzá, and also Potrero Nuevo.

The Toltec society is an archaeological Mesoamerican society that dominated a state focused in Tula in the early on Postclassic duration of Mesoamerican chronology (c. 800–1000 CE). Much of what is known around the Toltecs is based upon what has been learned about the Aztecs, one more Mesoamerican culture that postdated the Toltecs and admired the Toltecs as predecessors. Because so lot of what remains on record about the Toltecs may have actually been tainted by Aztec glorification and also mythology in the 14th with 16th centuries, it is difficult to parse the end the true history.

The later on Aztec culture saw the Toltecs as their intellectual and social predecessors, and also described Toltec society emanating indigenous Tōllān <ˈtoːlːaːn> (Nahuatl because that Tula) as the summary of civilization. Indeed, in the Nahuatl language the word “Tōltēcatl” (singular) or “Tōltēcah” (plural) pertained to take ~ above the meaning “artisan.” The Aztec oral and pictographic tradition likewise described the history of the Toltec Empire, offering lists of rulers and their exploits.

Among modern-day scholars that is a matter of conflict whether the Aztec narratives of Toltec history should be provided credence together descriptions that actual historic events. While every scholars identify that over there is a huge mythological part of the narrative, some preserve that by utilizing a an important comparative method some level of historicity deserve to be salvaged indigenous the sources. Others maintain that continued evaluation of the narratives as resources of actual background is futile and also hinders accessibility to actual understanding of the culture.

Another debate relating to the Toltecs remains how ideal to understand the reasons behind the perceived similarities in architecture and iconography between the archaeological site the Tula and also the Mayan site of Chichén Itzá. No consensus has yet emerged about the level or direction the influence between these two sites.

Toltec pyramid in ~ Tula, Hidalgo. Similarity to the pyramid in ~ Chichén Itzá have the right to be seen, consisting of the sloped shape and also external steps.


The historicists think that there is reality within the story told by the Aztecs. Theory abound around the role the Toltecs actually played in Mesoamerica, indigenous the main Mexican valleys all the means down to details Maya city-states.

Désiré Charnay, the very first archaeologist to job-related at Tula, Hidalgo, safeguarded the historicist views based on his impression the the Toltec capital. He to be the an initial to keep in mind similarities in architecture styles in between Tula and Chichén Itzá, a renowned Maya archeological site. This led him to posit the theory that Chichén Itzá had actually been violently taken over by a Toltec military pressure under the leadership of Kukulcan.Following Charnay, the term “Toltec” has due to the fact that been linked with the flow of certain main Mexican social traits into the Maya sphere of prominence during the late Classic and also early Postclassic periods. The Postclassic Maya people of Chichén Itzá, Mayapán, and the Guatemalan highlands have actually been referred to as “Toltecized” or “Mexicanized” Mayas.Some 20th-century historicist scholars, such together David Carrasco, Miguel León Portilla, Nigel Davies and also H. B. Nicholson, said that the Toltecs to be a distinctive ethnic group. This school of thought associated the “Toltecs” to the archaeological site of Tula, i beg your pardon was required to be the Tollan that Aztec myth.Historicists donate of the ethnic group theory likewise argue that lot of main Mexico to be possibly dominated by a “Toltec empire” between the 10th and 12th century CE. One feasible clue they point to is the the Aztecs described several mexican city-states as Tollan, “Place of Reeds,” such together “Tollan Cholollan.”Archaeologist Laurette Sejourné, complied with by the chronicler Enrique Florescano, suggested that the “original” Tollan was most likely Teotihuacán.Anti-Historicist

On the various other side the the debate lie those who believe that the Aztec stories room clouded by myth and also cannot be taken as specific accounts that the Toltec civilization. Lot of theories place the Toltec and also the site of Tula in ~ a more general framework:

Some scholars argue that the Toltec era is finest considered the fourth of the five Aztec mythical “suns” or ages. This 4th sun automatically precedes the fifth sun the the Aztec people, which was prophesied to it is in presided end by Quetzalcoatl.Some researcher argue the the just historically trustworthy data in the Aztec chronicles space the surname of some rulers and also possibly some of the conquests ascribed come them.Skeptics argue the the ancient city the Teotihuacán and also the Aztec city the Tenochtitlan to be much much more influential sites because that Mesoamerican society than Tula. However, this skeptical institution of assumed acknowledges that Tula still added to main Mexican social heritage in distinctive ways.Recent scholarship go not framework Tula, Hidalgo, together the capital of the Toltecs as defined in the Aztec accounts. Rather, that takes “Toltec” to average simply an inhabitant the Tula throughout its apogee. Separating the ax “Toltec” native those of the Aztec accounts, the attempts come find historical clues come the ethnicity, history, and also social organization of the occupants of the site of Tula.Archeology and Clues

While the occupants of the site of Tula, Hidalgo, continue to be a secret group, and their ethnic and also social dynamics are obscure, castle left behind considerable archeological records that modern-day scholars have attempted to parse through.


Stone carving that Quetzalcoatl. This an effective feathered serpent deity has deep supernatural roots in Aztec stories. He likewise appears frequently in carvings at Tula.

The city of Tula boasts 15-foot-tall warrior statues carved from stone. These exact same Atlantean figures, as they space called, also appear in ~ the Mayan website of Chichén Itzá and Potrero Nuevo.


Toltec warrior statues at Tula. These rock statues highlight the imaginative style that the city of Tula. They also connect this city through other social sites in Mesoamerica.

Tula additionally boasts complex carvings the eagles, jaguars, hummingbirds, and butterflies, every one of which the Aztec realm used prolifically. Furthermore, the site of Tula consists of two round courts for the religious rubber ball game that shows up in countless Mesoamerican civilizations. In addition to these distinctive relics, the Toltecs also built distinctive pyramids that mirror various other sites, such as Chichén Itzá.

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Many inquiries still remain around the occupants of this site, consisting of questions around their origin and their demise. This site likewise raises questions around the flow of influence between multiple Mesoamerican cultures before the climb of the Aztec Empire.