The ancient Mayan city of Tulum was home to approximately 1,600 people and was built on top of the cliffs of the Yucatan in the Caribbean. Built around the sixth century AD Tulum remained occupied all the way until the age of conquests. The city greatly impressed Europeans sailing by with its grand size and vertically cut obsidian, which gives off a golden glow in the sunlight. Tulum means ‘fence’ or ‘wall’, but some scholars believe that the before European intervention the city may have held the name ‘Zama’, meaning ‘dawn’, because the city faces eastwardly.
Tulum in its day was a very important site for trading as well as religion. Many of the buildings located within its protective wall were dedicated to gods of wind, water, earth, and sun (such as the one in above picture). Tulum was especially known for its temple of the descending god believed to be apart of the cult of the planet Venus. There is a descending god statue carved into the temple and similar statues can only be found in one other city known as Coba.
The central area of the city is level ground where trading would take place between townsfolk, and travelers. Archaeologists have found remnants of pottery, jewelry, and other goods buried within the topsoil to indicate a history of commerce in this open area of the city. Some believe that there may have been a wall in between the commerce and religious areas that only allowed a few individuals into the religious areas. However, during the solstices there was an area that allowed for the public viewing of rituals where the sun would shine directly through holes in the walls indicating the changing of the seasons.
Above is a picture of an almost entirely complete Book of the Dead found in the Museum of Egyptian history in Turin Italy. This holy text was written for the deceased to bring with them on their journey into the underworld to give them magical spells and instruction to enter the realm of the gods. The process of mummification was taken very seriously by the priests and people of Egypt at the time. In the early years the spells and instructions would be written on the tombs and sarcophagus’ of the dead. It was not until much later that priests began writing books and burying them with the deceased to carry with them. Each book takes a considerable amount of time to write and individuals would commission their creation in the later years of their life, or if they fell ill. In the later years priests began charging large amounts of money for the books to be written, this alienated the lower classes from being able to attain a book.
Above is a photo taken by Lezlie Weber from the man-made viewing platform of the Nazca Lines in Peru. To learn a bit more about the ancient geoglyphs check out our earlier post!