Collapse & Emergence

El Zapotal hollow ceramic figure, Veracruz, Classic Period.











Wall Painting, Bonampak, Eighth-century CE.











Wall Painting, Bonampak, Eighth-century CE.











Fall of Late Classic Cities
  • Postclassic period was multi-cultural
  • Unprecedented regional contact
  • Increased war and chaos
  • Time of gradual change
  • Centers fell at non-uniform rate
  • Best seen in history of Tula and Chichen Itza
  • Toltec dominate central Mexico 11th to 13th centuries
Incence Effigy, Maya, 1250 - 1521











The feline man is associated with the rains that fertilize the earth.
The Bird Man is associated with Quetzalcoatl, the generous deity who taught people the arts and agriculture
Paintings in Structure A, "Feline Man" and "Bird Man," Cacaxtla. 700-900 CE.





























Rise of the Toltecs at Tula and Chichen Itza 10th century
  • Toltecs developed strong militaristic force at Tula
  • Once a thriving urban center
  • Important trading center
Pyramid B, Tula, Early Postclassic.











Atlantean Columns, Pyramid B, Tula, Early Postclassic.











Chacmool from the Palace, Tula, Early Postclassic.





















Chichen Itza = “at the mouth of the well of the Itza”
  • Flourished 9th – 13th century CE
  • Multi-ethnic
  • Mexacanized Maya group called Itza
  • Came into contact with Toltecs
  • Unified its people through public architecture
Chichen Itza





















The Caracol, Chichen Itza, Early Postclassic












    The Maya were quite accomplished astronomers. Their primary interest, in contrast to "western" astronomers, were Zenial Passages when the Sun crossed over the Maya latitudes. On an annual basis the sun travels to its summer solstice point, or the latitude of 23-1/3 degrees north.

    Most of the Maya cities were located south of this latitude, meaning that they could observe the sun directly overhead during the time that the sun was passing over their latitude. This happened twice a year, evenly spaced around the day of solstice. 

    The Maya could easily determine these dates, because at local noon, they cast no shadow. Zenial passage observations are possible only in the Tropics and were quite unknown to the Spanish conquistadors who descended upon the Yucatan peninsula in the 16th century. The Maya had a god to represented this position of the Sun called the Diving God.

View from atop the Caracol











"Fat Boy," Olmec











The Caracol, Chichen Itza, Early Postclassic