Mayan Ruins of Tulum

Posted On 12/27/2011 03:28:11 by GrapevineTravelAdventures

Jutting out into warm sky blue waters, Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula divides the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea.  Once was the home of a great Mayan civilization,  Mayan ruins abound.  High on a cliff looming over the sea sits Tulum, one of the most compact and intact ruins around.


While visiting Tulum on a shore excursion from a Carnival cruise, we had the great fortune to have a tour guide of Mayan descent.  In addition to the knowledge passed from one generation to the next, he had also done his college thesis on Tulum and the ancient Mayans.  He seemed quite eager to share his vast wealth of information on the ruins with our group.


He explained that Mayan culture revolved around the cycle of life.  Summer and winter, birth and death.  Their circular calendar covered 360 days around the outside, with a person carrying a heavy burden pictured in the center depicting the other five. While they didn't have leap years as we do, they moved their starting point up of the way, or one equinox each year, which covered the extra day at the end of the four years.  He was very adamant that the Mayans did not in fact predict the end of the world in 2012.  People who don't understand the culture say that, the real Mayans such as him do not believe it one bit.  He said it is just time to reset the equinox on their more complicated long term calendar system.


The five days at the center of the yearly calendar meant time for the people to carry the weight of the earth.  They gathered within Tulum's walls and fasted during that time.  Tulum had a sewer system, necessary for a gathering of that size. It also had a cenote to provide fresh water. 


The temples at Tulum ran east to west.  Buildings for living areas ran north to south.  The ancient Mayans had a written language, of which the symbols can be phonetically translated to match our letters.  Their math used a binary system much like modern computers.  In the way they wrote their numbers, the larger ones resembled a pyramid much like the ones they built.  They did not use pyramids as tombs the way ancient Egyptians did.


We bypassed a tall archway into the ruins, which our guide explained had been rebuilt by taller people long after the Mayans had abandoned Tulum.  Farther down the wall we found a Mayan sized arch, which meant we all had to duck on the way in.  Tulum means wall in Mayan, and makes these ruins unique as most of their cities had no walls.  Our guide explained that Tulum was not an ordinary city, more comparable to a holy place. The scholars, thinkers, and mathematicians lived within the walls with farmers on the outside.  The farmers had no calendars, so the scholars on the inside told them when to plant and when to harvest.  The walls, he said, were not to keep the farmers out, but rather the scholars in, because the farmers had all the wealth.


The building referred to as the castle by today's tourist maps was their main temple.  It has a central pyramid-like structure, flanked by a smaller building on each side. The main building has gaps on either side.  One frames the summer solstice and the other the winter solstice.  Our guide explained that the small building near the summer solstice resembles the legs of a Mayan mother, with a baby coming from the darkness into the light at the moment of birth over the door.


Quite a few buildings of different shapes and sizes cover the main Tulum site.  One called Temple of the Frescos has carvings on the walls, some of which still have a hint of color left from where they once had paint.


Off in the distance sits the Temple of the Wind.  Specially placed holes caused this building to whistle a warning when a hurricane headed for a direct hit on Tulum.  It still works, having whistled when the winds of Roxanne reached hurricane force in 1995.


The ancient Mayans had quite an advanced civilization.  They even performed plastic surgery.  Considering large noses quite attractive, they reconstructed theirs to attach high on the forehead as seen in the way they carved their masks.


Only stone structures remain in Tulum.  The Spaniards, afraid of anything that might have significance to a religion other than their own, burned all the calendars and other wooden artifacts.  Much knowledge was lost, as only that which passed verbally from one generation to the next remains.


A flight of stairs leads to a beautiful beach below the ruins. There people can sunbathe, swim, or even snorkel if they brought gear.


Near the parking area, shops of all sorts carry everything from fine jewelry to local crafts and food. The Flying Man Show entertains visitors with costumed men spinning around a pole on long ropes.  When they finish the show, they quickly detach from the poles and approach the crowd with collecting tins.

 Visitors have a choice of walking from the parking area to the ruins or taking a tram, which costs a couple dollars.  On the bus on the way there, they do their best to convince everyone to take the tram because of the time it will save in getting back to the parking lot when it is time to leave.  With our group though, by the time people bought their tickets and got loaded onto the tram the walkers had gotten to the meeting area by the ruins first.  When time to leave comes, any time saved riding the tram is probably lost waiting for it to get there so it really seems to come to a matter of preference for walking or riding more so than the time involved.

Tags: Mayan Calendar Mayan Ruins Mexico Yucatan Penninsula Travel 2012

Viewing 1 - 2 out of 2 Comments

12/25/2016 13:01:33
From: annagrey

Well I will say this work is nice and the post is good

12/28/2011 19:33:18
From: grapevine
I Have been there.... Great blog and pics!

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