Tulum (Spanish pronunciation: [tuˈlum], Yucatec: Tulu’um) is the site of a pre-Columbian Mayan walled city which served as a major port for Coba, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. The ruins are situated on 12-meter (39 ft) tall cliffs along the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula on the Caribbean Sea in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Maya; it was at its height between the 13th and 15th centuries and managed to survive about 70 years after the Spanish began occupying Mexico. Old World diseases brought by the Spanish settlers appear to have resulted in very high fatalities, disrupting the society and eventually causing the city to be abandoned. One of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites, Tulum is today a popular site for tourists.
Tulum has architecture typical of Maya sites on the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. This architecture is recognized by a step running around the base of the building which sits on a low substructure. Doorways of this type are usually narrow with columns used as support if the building is big enough. As the walls flare out there are usually two sets of molding near the top. The room usually contains one or two small windows with an altar at the back wall, roofed by either a beam-and-rubble ceiling or being vaulted. This type of architecture resembles what can be found in the nearby Chichen Itza, just on a much smaller scale.
Pyramid El Castillo (The Castle), 2008
Windows in the Castillo’s sea-facing wall.
Tulum was protected on one side by steep sea cliffs and on the landward side by a wall that averaged about 3–5 meters (9.8–16.4 ft) in height. The wall also was about 8 m (26 ft) thick and 400 m (1,300 ft) long on the side parallel to the sea. The part of the wall that ran the width of the site was slightly shorter and only about 170 meters (560 ft) on both sides. Constructing this massive wall would have taken an enormous amount of energy and time, which shows how important defense was to the Maya when they chose this site. On the southwest and northwest corners there are small structures that have been identified as watch towers, showing again how well defended the city was. There are five narrow gateways in the wall with two each on the north and south sides and one on the west. Near the northern side of the wall a small cenote provided the city with fresh water. It is this impressive wall that makes Tulum one of the most well-known fortified sites of the Maya.
Most famous buildings
There are three major structures of interest at the Tulum archaeological site. El Castillo, the Temple of the Frescoes, and the Temple of the Descending God.