In February 2017, my family and I visited the ruins of an ancient civilization called Tulum. Tulum is a 13th– century, archeological site on Mexico’s coast, south of Cancun. There were many different Mayan cities but Tulum stands out because, besides being the only city built near the coast, it was one of very few that is surrounded by a wall.
784 metres long, seven metres thick, and made of limestone and surrounding trees, Tulum’s wall did a good job of protecting the seaport. There are many theories why the wall was built around Tulum. Some say that Tulum’s wall was made to provide safety for all the 600 citizens. Some believe that only the high-class citizens were inside of the wall. The peasants and the poor were kept on the other side. The wall acts as a barrier against enemies to protect the people that live inside.
The lifespan of the poor was only 20-30 years. On the other hand, high-class citizens had a lifespan from 60-70 years of age. On the outside of the wall, the poor did not have the same protection. They were slaves who built the wall and the buildings inside of it. Many died from the poisonous plants or the wildlife. There were no horses or cattle, so everything was carried by the slaves.
The upper-class civilians made the lower-class make self-sacrifices. Unlike other Mayan cities, Tulum did not perform human sacrifice. Instead, self-sacrifices in Tulum included piercings on the toe, or taking drops of blood. These ceremonies would be used to control the lower class. With the rulers telling the poor that they were able to ask the gods above to make natural things happen, like turn day to night, the lower- class wouldn’t turn against their rulers.
The inside of the wall was beautiful. The buildings for the rulers and the priests were coloured blue and red. Red for power, and blue for the ocean, as Tulum was a seaport. There were also pictures of animals carved into the walls of the buildings. Even today, as I saw when my family visited Tulum, some of the red and blue paint is still on those very same buildings.
It was very interesting to peek into the life of the ancient Mayan citizens of Tulum. There is still so much more about Tulum that has not been discovered yet. However, for the time being, those secrets shall remain a mystery.