Image - Cacao Pod Vessel - K6706 © Justin Kerr FAMSI © 2000:
Cynthia Kristan-Graham

The Architecture of Statecraft at Ancient Tula
Vea este informe en Español.

Research Year:  1999
Culture:  Toltec
Chronology:  Early Post Classic
Location:  Highland México
Site:  Tula

Table of Contents

Tula and Chichén Itzá
The Tula Art Tradition and the Colonnaded Hall-Sunken Patio Architectural Complex


I traveled to México to research and photograph Tula, Hidalgo, and related sites for an in-progress book about the Tula art tradition. I took both black/white and color prints. Some were transferred to CD-Rom in order to make reconstructions of what some buildings in Tula Grande–particularly the Vestibule in front of Pyramid B and Building 3 (the Palacio Quemado)–may have originally looked like with in situ polychromed relief sculptures that are now mostly lost or destroyed. This will help us to understand what Tula Grande may have looked like in the Early Postclassic period, before the site was abandoned and then looted by the Aztecs in the Late Postclassic period.

I also visited a number of sites in the Bajío, North México, and West México that had historic ties to Tula. I found that these regions participated in a shared architectural tradition with Tula that included colonnaded halls and sunken patios (patios hundidos). Most of these sites (including La Quemada, Zacatecas, and a cluster of sites in the Bajío) are not thoroughly published. It was important to photograph these sites in order to show that Tula is part of a larger regional and supra-regional architectural tradition. I am not concerned with constructing a genealogy of these architectural features, but rather with asking why this cluster of traits transcends geographical and cultural boundaries. And, as an art historian, I am interested in the practical as well as symbolic aspects of architecture, including narrative and ritual referents and overall symbolic import.

My research project dovetailed with a colloquium that I co-organized with Jeff Karl Kowalski of Northern Illinois University–"Rethinking Tollan, Chichén Itzá, and Tula"–that was held at Dumbarton Oaks on February 19-20, 2000.  The colloquium consisted of a small number of speakers and invited audience members from Canada, the United States, and México who are actively involved in approaching the "Tula-Chichén Itzá problem" from a spectrum of disciplinary and methodological vantage points. The results will be published in a Dumbarton Oaks volume that I am co-editing. My colloquium paper was entitled "Coming to Terms With Tula"; many of the ideas presented were the result of FAMSI-sponsored research. My paper has several foci:

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Submitted 06/01/2000 by:

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