950-1150

Following the demise of Teotihuacan's influence, a new city gradually achieved dominance in Central Mexico. It's name was Tollen, which, translated, means "Place of the rushes" or simply "city." Its people and culture were Toltec.

The "chacmool" (here headless), a reclining figure holding a bowl on his belly with a sacrificial knife strapped to his arm, was a Toltec contribution to Maya and later cultures. Hearts' blood in the bowl easily may be imagined.

Though much is known, much is not known about the Toltecs and about their city, Tollen (today thought to be Tula, though many cities, including Teotihuacan, were called "Tollen"). Chronicles recorded soon after the Spanish conquest suggest that The Toltecs migrated from north-western Mexico, from a people called "Chichimeca," a word that means something like "descendent of the dog." Who those people might have been is anyone's guess. Nevertheless, the legend the chronicles tell is fascinating.

It seems a mighty leader named Topilzin (born 935 or 947) was identified as Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent. He was light of skin, had long hair and a black beard. He would have nothing to do with human sacrifice. Ruled beneficently. Was an all-around Good Guy dedicated to the peaceful Feathered Serpent cult. But Good Guys can't cut it (never have) when there's some kind of security threat. And in Central Mexico during the 10th to 12th centuries there was always some kind of security threat.

Enter Tezcatlipoca ("Smoking Mirror") who was just the deity to handle things. God of warriors, giver and taker of life, lord of sorcerers…and demander of human sacrifices. Guess who won. It was under the tutelage of this bloody god that Tula achieved its greatest power and influence. It lasted until the late 12th century when the last king, Huemac, moved to what is now a part of Mexico City and committed suicide. That's the legend, ridiculously over-simplified.

Later peoples, particularly the Aztecs, remembered the Toltecs and their might. That an Aztec ruler could trace his ancestry to the Toltecs was a given. And the good leader/god of the Toltecs, Quetzalcoatl, was remembered, too. Someday he would return. Could it be that the people of Tula are responsible for the easy victory of the Spanish over the Aztecs in the 16th century? Question: Were the characteristics and requirements of Quetzalcoatl the same for the Toltecs as for the Teotihuacanos? Was Quetzalcoatl always the "same" god? If someone will send me a shedding light on that question I'll post it here.

But, for now, let's saunter over toward Pyramid B, at the heart of the city's ceremonial center.