From XVI century the site it´s been known as “Zamá”, it is possible that it refers to the word in Maya that means ¨tomorrow, wich it makes sense since this place is located on the highest zone of this coast, where it is possible to contemplate the sunrise as a magical spectacle.
The Mayan city of Tulum stands 130 km south and 700 years away of Cancun. But the contrast between the two can be measured in more than just distance and time. Cancun is a string of large resort hotels which did not exist prior to 1974 and which specialize in the expected. Tulum, on the other hand, was built late in the thirteenth century, during what is known as the Mayan post-classic period.
Like the questions which surround the decline of the Mayan world, there are several theories as to why a wall surrounds Tulum. One has a Mayan population of 600 on the inside, protected from invaders. Another suggests only priests and nobility were housed within the walls, while peasants were kept on the outside.
After entering the ruins through one of five doorways in the wall, visitors are greeted by a field of gently-rolling hills. Black and grey stone outcroppings, which were once buildings, dot the sun-baked landscape. Here visitors realize that what is left of Tulum can spark the imagination. Given that the seaport was once a link with the outside world, can there be any clues as to what happened to the civilization here? It’s a question historians and archeologists still grapple with, so don’t be discouraged if an answer isn’t obvious.
Most prominent among the remaining structures is the Castillo, or castle, which is perched on the edge of a 12-metre limestone cliff, overlooking the Caribbean coast. Negotiating its steep steps is best done sideways, a fact which will assert itself on the way down. Before descending, though, be certain to catch a glimpse of the Caribbean behind the Castillo. The view is as refreshing as the cool breeze coming from the sea. In front of the Castillo is the Temple of the Frescoes, one of the better preserved buildings. Peer inside the temple to see a mural painted in three sections. The first level represents the Mayan world of the dead, the middle is that of the living, and the final, highest piece, is of the creator and rain gods. Interesting to note in the middle of the living section is a god astride a four-legged animal believed to be a horse. If in fact this is a horse, it would mean Mayans still occupied Tulum in 1518 when they would have seen the animals for the first time with the arrival of the Spanish. Chiselled above the doorway of the temple is a figure with what appears to be bird’s wings and a tail. This diving god is believed to represent a Mayan deity who protected the people and is particularly well-preserved on various buildings around the site. Piecing together what Tulum was like a millenium ago is exciting, but it can also be a humid venture. That’s why it’s a good idea to take something cold to drink, a hat and a bathing suit. Just north of the Castillo is a pathway that leads down to a sandy beach and the multi-hued Caribbean. For visual drama, a walk along the beach provides ample opportunity for photographs. The walk is an adventure into, around and under nooks and crannies carved out of the cliffs. Each additional turn brings a new, secluded stretch of the Caribbean, perfect for both swimming and reflecting on the ruins. Tulum remains popular because of its elegant setting on sheer limestone cliffs above the turquoise splendour of the crashing Caribbean, the only Mayan city built on the coast.
The origin of its name.
The lack of epigraphic evidence does not let us know the name of the settlement during the prehispanica era. There are some colonial references from the area, during the thity year of the XX century to call it Kinchil Coba, in the name of the Mayan Sun God and from a geographic area that was related to the mayan words “cob” or “kob”, wich means cloudy or minced, and “ha”, that means water, and this gives place to the name of “ place of the minced water”, in the name of the lakes around the city.
A different traduction to the Word “Coba”, an example is just to mention “Chachalaca Waters” (“cob” as the name of that region bird); “Tuza Tooth” ( also from the Word in mayan “coh”, wich means tooth and “bah”, tuza) or “plenty of water” (from the Word “cob”, plenty and “ha” water). The first one will be the most appropriate in terms of the greagraphic area.
No doubt we are talking about the most important settlement of the northeast from the Yucatan Peninsula, comparable with size just to Chichen Itza, its enemy along big part of the prehispánica history. Its extension a Little more than 70 square km and a web of 45 roads ( or sacbeob) that communicates to the site different sets, and with other smaller communities, certainly dependen ton their domain.
Between this set of systems shows up Sacbe with a size of 100 km that communicates Coba to Yaxuna, another archeological area in the next state of Yucatan.
The investigation that had been done in the zone before, le tus know that Coba has a long history of occupation that might had been began from year 200 or 100 before this era, when it existed a settlement of low platforms and Wood constructions, wich there is no evidence left but some ceramic fragments.
From year 100 a.C., the zone of Coba begins to show a remarkable demographic growth, social and political, that turned into one of the largest and powerful cities from the north part of Yucatan.
Between years 200 and 600 of our era, the city of Coba seemed to controled a big part of the land, this would had led them to dominate the entire north of the current state of Quintana Roo and several Eastern areas of Yucatan. This all power was evident because of the control of large agricultural areas and hydraulic, well as interaregional trade routes, icluding control of some important ports, as Xelhá.
Even though there still too much undiscovered about this period, Coba undoubtedly held close contacts with major cities from Guatemala and the south of Campeche and Quintana Roo, like Tikal, Dzibanché or Calakmul. To maintain its power they must establish military and matrimonial alliances at the highest level. In this point, is interesting to mention the teotihuacan architecture style( there was a platform from the group of paints that was esplored in 1999), this documentary the existence of links with the central part of Mexico and its powerful metrópolis from the early classic period: Teotihuacán.
From the year 600 A.D, the strengthening of cities from the yacatan Puuc and the subsequent appearance of Chichen Itza in the sociopolitical landscape of the península, they meant changes inthe power structure of coba and its relations with other important mayan cities, this would have forced them to reshape their territorial domains. The information that is now aveilabe allows us to advance the hypothesis that from year 900 or 1000 AD, Coba would have entered into a long dispute with Chichen Itza, in wich they were defeated after losing lands as Yaxuna.
After the year 1000 A.D., Coba lost its political importance, even though it seems to have retained its symbolic and ritual importance, that allowed them to regain some hierarchy during the 1200-1500 period, when serveral Eastern cost style buildings were constructed.
At the time of the consolidation of the spanish península control(1550), Coba was uninhabited, and the city was mention again within the arrival of the travelers John Sephens and Frederick Catherwood, toward the mid XIX century.
Moreover, their historical importance and beauty of its natural surroundings make Coba a must to visit for anyone interested in learning about the archeology of Quintana Roo. The long walk that means visiting all sets enabled the public, the visit provides an opportunity to observe a variety of birds and animals from the region, well as various plant species that form in the selvático regional enviroment.
The city is structured by architectural related groups in its chronology and its urban function: there exist some residential complexes, as the Coba group, and other with a ceremonial and funerary function, as the group of Mecanxoc.
Currently open to the visit, the Coba group (where the walking starts), Are open to the visit the Coba Group (which starts the tour ) , where a temple can be seen from almost 25 meters tall , belonging to the Early Classic , known locally as the church; and a complex set of palace and residential buildings are an excellent example of the enormous size and significance of the city in its time . In this area is the Ball , with representations of captives belonging to the period 600-900 AD, and ornamented with depictions of human skulls and hieroglyphic inscriptions on the basement stair risers . The tour of this area allows you to view the start of sacbé 1, which communicates with Yaxuná site , located some 100 kilometers east .
A short distance, is the group where one of the tallest buildings throughout the Maya area, known as Nohoch Mul ( “big hill ” in Maya) , a huge base of more than 30 meters high, on which a temple belonging to a later stage of construction , which adds another 12 meters to the structure, to a total height of 42 meters is maintained.
The Nohoch Mul was built during the Early Classic period ( 200-600 AD) , probably to commemorate the sacred power of the rulers of Coba and to serve as a final resting place for some of the members of the ruling lineage ; for political and symbolic importance , they were building houses various building elements, such as the temple, which corresponds to the East Coast architectural style of the period 1200-1550 .
The set Nohoch Mul has another large building : the large platform , a building nearly 30 meters high and 110 meters wide 125 , making it the foundation of peak throughout the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula. Although it has not been explored , it is interesting to note the impressive measures, possibly an unfinished work, as deduced from the absence of any vestiges of construction on top .
In this group , compared to the X structure is Stela 20 , the best preserved site , presenting the Mayan date 30 November 730 .
Nearby is the Xaibé ( cruise or roads) , a unique structure restored a few years ago , consisting of a semicircular building and a staircase – grandstand risers treads and much higher than in human metric. It seems to have worked as a memorial and cross sacbes 1, 5 , 6 and 8.
Southwest of Nohoch Mul is the Group of Paintings , a collection of buildings constructed during the Late Postclassic their name from fragments preserved wall paintings inside the main temple small group . Although modest in size , is relevant because it has the later constructions Coba, built with stones and building materials from older buildings. Near this group is a platform style base – board slope Teotihuacan .
The Macanxoc group consists of a set of low platforms with small temples and shrines , most of which are preceded by a commemorative stelae events relating to the life and activities of the rulers of Coba, some of them women.