Tulúm's El Castillo

Resting beautifully on a cliff overlooking the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean Sea is El Castillo of Tulúm, its castle. Originally presumed to be a temple El Castillo reflects the glory of Maya civilization at its height when realizing from a recent discovery in 1984, its critical role operating as a lighthouse. With many small windows perfectly aligning to the break in the barrier reef, the magnificence of this structure comes when imagined is a line of canoes, vessels and sailors traveling from afar who can unload that of their precious cargo as directed by reference points where to line and business kept in fashionable order. When late into the evening, in replacement of sunlight captured in the windows a small fire would be lit transforming the structure into a lighthouse.

Furthering its role as a lighthouse El Castillo truly lives to its name as a wondrous castle. Tulúm is one of the few fortified cities built and its walls can still be seen today standing 5 meters in width. With the Caribbean Sea to the east, the walls consist of three sides and five gates. For this reason, in the Yucatec language Tulúm translates as “wall.” With five gates facilitating inflow and out both of traffic and commerce, Tulúm was from the Classical Period, perhaps 564 A.D. by what is of known earliest inscriptions, to the Post Classic Period, 1200 to 1450 A.D., having reached its apogee as a trade center and seaport.

By its geographical location to the sea Tulúm was an important center for receiving imports and operating in the business of shipping. Activity thrived as trading canoes frequented stops from Honduras and the Gulf Coast. Overseas routes proved extensive as to reaching Costa Rica and even to Panama, by demand for precious metals inclusive of gold, copper, and silver. Via land routes Tulúm facilitated its success equally in welcoming merchants through its gates as well maximizing the use of rivers as an express by placing traffic signs along in assisting, both the distribution and timeliness of, essential and luxury goods to deliver. Tulúm was key for networking societies into the streamline of various goods and resources. Obsidian, for instance, is found in abundant supply as a household item throughout the lowlands area despite how the land, within that particular area, contains no obsidian ores. Adding to obsidian, the importance of Tulúm may also be illustrated by example of the metate, a stone-grinding tool crucial for the preparation of corn and grains. In Tikal, over 2,000 metates have been excavated and of these: 15% made of native limestone; the remaining 85% being of imported stone such as granite or serpentine. Other trade items into the lowlands or any landlocked region include shells, stingray spines for rituals, salt, and jade ornaments.

The role in allowing basic necessities to be attained made Tulúm vital and its role facilitating the accessing of luxury items representative of royalty such as gold and coral-colored shells made itself heavily sought. By the 4th century, rulers from Teotihuacán began investing their attentions into the tapping and control of the routes. Cities, such as Calakmul and Tikal, became political and economic rivals by clash of their interests to claim supreme rule, including the securement of control over a wealth generating asset.

The significance of this seaport is historically rich. Tulúm allowed the nobility to establish their prestige while becoming promotive of commoners who participated in trade. The city once populated by 1,500 inhabitants can still be seen with activity by visiting tourists and El Castillo proving in continuance a wondrous sight.