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Toltecs Driven Out of Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza

Founded around 800 AD, the northern lowland Maya city of Chichen Itza continued to flourish even after its southern Maya neighbors had declined around 900 AD. At its peak, Chichen Itza was possibly the largest and densely populated Maya state. But the Maya domination of one of its magnificent cities ended when refugees from the destroyed Toltec city of Tula arrived at its fringes and saw an opportunity to take over. The Toltecs were later driven out of Chichen Itza during 1180 according to the Bible Timeline Chart with World History.

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The Conquerors from Tula

The Toltecs occupied the great city of Tula for less than a century before they were driven out by mysterious forces. The city showed evidence of fire and widespread destruction because of internal strife. It was also possible that external threats, such as climate change and warfare brought the empire down. The Toltecs left the city in the eleventh century and dispersed in neighboring areas while others continued further south into the tropical areas of present-day Mexico. Those who migrated south traveled once again into the Yucatan Peninsula and conquered the great city of Chichen Itza.

The Toltec conquerors left behind traces of their violent domination of the Maya city. Reliefs that showed Toltec warriors besieging the city and violently taking captives were found in Chichen Itza. The Toltec also left behind one of the most distinct signs of their presence: the tzompantli or skull rack. The Toltec introduced the large-scale sacrifice of war captives in Chichen Itza. They commemorated their victory by building a large skull rack displayed on a platform (still intact and can be viewed). They later constructed several Chac Mool statues in Chichen Itza where they placed the hearts of sacrificial victims and hurled captives as human sacrifice in the Sacred Cenote (sacred pool which was the site of pilgrimage and worship during the Maya heyday).

The descendants of the Toltec conquerors who ruled Chichen Itza were later deposed by Hunac Ceel, the ruler of Mayapan, in the late twelfth century. The great Maya city was also largely abandoned during the 1200s, but pilgrims continued to visit the Sacred Cenote even after many of the Chichen Itza inhabitants fled the city.

“Chichén Itzá Tzompantli”
Picture By AnagoriaOwn work, CC BY 3.0, Link
Evans, Susan Toby, and David L. Webster. Archaeology of Ancient Mexico and Central America: An Encyclopedia. London: Routledge, 2010.
Foster, Lynn V. Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World. New York: Facts on File, 2002.
Kowalski, Jeff Karl, and Cynthia Kristan-Graham. Twin Tollans: Chichén Itzá, Tula, and the Epiclassic to Early Postclassic Mesoamerican World. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library & Collection, 2007.
Morley, Sylvanus Griswold, and George W. Brainerd. The Ancient Maya. Stanford Cal.: Stanford Univ. Press, 1968.
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