Expert opinion
Examining Tula’s Complex Urban Layout

The Tula archeological site is one of the most important of the Toltec culture. This monumental complex of buildings is located on an artificial terrace, upon which various administrative and ceremonial buildings were erected. A large central plaza has a shrine in the middle. Toward the north, the Palacio Quemado ("Burned Palace") and Pyramid B were built, the latter structure being separated by a wall known as the Coatepantli ("Wall of Snakes"). Building J and Pyramid C are located to the east, the elongated Building K to the south, and a Tzompantli ("Wall of Skulls") and Ballcourt 2 (see the site map) to the west.

Located at the fork of the Rosas and Tula rivers and at the crest of a hill (El Tesoro), Tula’s shape and plan is intimately connected to the local relief and topography. The site is bordered by the Magoni peak to the west and by another rocky prominence (El Cielito) to the southeast. The city’s rectangular shape has irregular contours at its edges, where the Tula river provided the north-south oriented axis of layout during the initial phase of Toltec construction. Evidence of two renovations can be seen during the second phase of Toltec construction: one when the city began to be oriented toward the northeast, and the other when it expanded in a northwesterly direction.

In the second stage of urban development, the city of Tula reached seven square miles, corresponding to its maximum expansion during the Tollan phase (900-1150 AD). It measured 3.7 miles from north to south, and 2.5 miles from east to west. Due to the area’s topography, the slopes, hills, and part of the valley between 2,005 and 2,060 meters above sea level were developed. The site is flanked to the east by the modern-day towns of San Lorenzo, Tultengo, and El Llano, as well as by the hill called El Cielito; to the west, by the present-day city of Tula and the Malinche and Magoni hills; and to the south, by the town of San Marcos.

The site’s numerous neighborhoods with clusters of houses and a main temple suggest a highly complex urban life outside the ceremonial center. Specialist craftsmen who produced ceramic, stone, shell, bone, sculptures, fabrics and other handcrafts worked in some of the neighborhoods. To the north, outside the urban sector, there was farmland as well as housing units linked to intensive agricultural systems that used watering and a network of canal-irrigated terraces.

The archeological city of Tula was a very complex urban center, even without taking into account the processes of decline and reoccupation that took place, with the arrival of Nahua peoples, and subsequently during the Colonial period.

INAH-DMC/Héctor Montaño
INAH-DMC/Héctor Montaño
INAH-DMC/Héctor Montaño


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