Chichen Itza Uxmal Mayapan Dzibilchaltun Xcambo Tulum


The Castle in Tulum

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The Castle in Tulum is the biggest and one of the oldest buildings in this Mayan Archeological Site. Some remains date back to the 6th century compared to the majority of buildings that are from the post-Classic Mayan period between the years 1200 and 1450.

Tulum’s lighthouse

The Castle in Tulum from the Beach
The Castle in Tulum from the Beach

The Castle is an imposing building right on the Caribbean Sea shore, whose limestone walls rise above sea level. With a natural rocky ground 12 meters high that serves as its base, it’s an ideal point to see the ocean. Although, its function would not be so much of a watch tower, but as a guide for navigators, in other words, it served as a beacon or light house only for friendly ships.

Tulum’s coast is protected by a very long coral reef that was an obstacle for sailors that didn’t know Tulum’s secret passage. That’s why the Mayans sailed out to sea in parallel, and when they arrived at a perpendicular line to the Castle of Tulum, they turned towards the shore through a narrow path from where they could access the coast.

Windows of the Castle in Tulum
Windows of the Castle in Tulum

When it was dark, the Mayans illuminated two windows of the Castle in Tulum which indicated that it was time to turn and head towards the land without being shipwrecked, something that the Spanish sailors didn’t know when they first arrived, so they couldn’t reach Tulum.

Because of this, Tulum was a very important commercial port for the Mayans, that was a gateway for merchandise that arrived from the Gulf of Mexico, Central, and South America.

Physical Description of The Castle in Tulum

The Castle in Tulum was built in two phases, the oldest construction served as a base to build the upper temple. To get to this temple you have to climb a staircase that leads to a stone where some researchers think it was used for human sacrifices.

The Castle’s Temple

The Temple has three entrances, two vaulted chambers, and a lintel supported by two columns. These columns have the shape of a serpent with their heads on the bottom acting as a base.

The Castle's Temple in Tulum
The Castle’s Temple in Tulum

In the upper-center part of the Castle’s Temple, there’s a sculpture of the descending god with two other unidentified figures. On the corners of the building there are some masks made of stucco thought to be heads of guacamayas.

The Castle in Tulum sits on a cliff where there’s a cave that corresponds to the lower plane or the underworld, and the upper part of the Castle is related to the higher planes.

Small Temples of the Castle in Tulum

At the platform’s level, on both sides of the stairway, there are two small temples on whose interior altars were laid offerings and were used as oratories mainly used for religious rituals.

Temple of the Initial Series

On the south side of the platform you will find the two-room Temple of the Initial Series where a date was carved on a stela from 564 BCE. This temple got the name because the stela’s date goes back to a time when Tulum was only a small village.

Since most of Tulum’s buildings date after the year 900, it’s speculated that the stela was brought from a neighboring Mayan city, probably Coba.

The 1.8m tall stela was made in low relief with a long inscription framing an image. The pillar has been damaged by water erosion and other factors that contribute to the missing of parts around the edges and its base.

Location of the Castle in Tulum

The Castle in Tulum is located right next to the sea in a platform that houses the Temples of “The initial series” on your right and the “Descending God” on your left on the edge of the platform.

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