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.