Toltec

An expressive orange-ware clay vessel in the Toltec style, from the American Museum of Natural History collection.

The Toltec culture (k/) is an archaeological Mesoamerican culture that dominated a state centered in Tula, Hidalgo, Mexico in the early post-classic period of Mesoamerican chronology (ca. 900–1168 CE). The later Aztec culture saw the Toltecs as their intellectual and cultural predecessors and described Toltec culture emanating from Tōllān [ˈtoːlːaːn] (Nahuatl for Tula) as the epitome of civilization; in the Nahuatl language the word Tōltēcatl [toːlˈteːkat͡ɬ] (singular) or Tōltēcah [toːlˈteːkaʔ] (plural) came to take on the meaning "artisan". The Aztec oral and pictographic tradition also described the history of the Toltec Empire, giving lists of rulers and their exploits.

Modern scholars debate whether the Aztec narratives of Toltec history should be given credence as descriptions of actual historical events. While all scholars acknowledge that there is a large mythological part of the narrative, some maintain that by using a critical comparative method some level of historicity can be salvaged from the sources. Others maintain that continued analysis of the narratives as sources of actual history is futile and hinders access to actual knowledge of the culture of Tula de Allende.

Other controversies relating to the Toltecs include the question of how best to understand the reasons behind the perceived similarities in architecture and iconography between the archaeological site of Tula and the Maya site of Chichén Itzá. No consensus has yet emerged about the degree or direction of influence between these two sites. Another source of controversy is that New Age authors such as Carlos Castaneda and Don Miguel Ruiz falsely claim they represent "Toltec" teachings.[citation needed] For these New Age impersonations see Toltec (Castaneda).

Archaeology

Toltec pyramid at Tula, Hidalgo

Some archaeologists, such as Richard Diehl, argue for the existence of a Toltec archaeological horizon characterized by certain stylistic traits associated with Tula, Hidalgo and extending to other cultures and polities in Mesoamerica. Traits associated with this horizon are: The Mixteca-Puebla style of iconography, Tohil plumbate ceramic ware and Silho or X-Fine Orange Ware ceramics.[1] The presence of stylistic traits associated with Tula in Chichén Itzá is also taken as evidence for a Toltec horizon. Especially the nature of interaction between Tula and Chichén Itzá has been controversial with scholars arguing for either military conquest of Chichén Itzá by Toltecs, Chichén Itzá establishing Tula as a colony or only loose connections between the two. The existence of any meaning of the Mixteca-Puebla art style has also been questioned.[2]

A contrary viewpoint is argued in a 2003 study by Michael E. Smith and Lisa Montiel who compare the archaeological record related to Tula Hidalgo to those of the polities centered in Teotihuacan and Tenochtitlan. They conclude that relative to the influence exerted in Mesoamerica by Teotihuacan and Tenochtitlan, Tula's influence on other cultures was negligible and was probably not deserving of being defined as an empire, but more of a kingdom. While Tula does have the urban complexity expected of an imperial capital, its influence and dominance was not very far reaching. Evidence for Tula's participation in extensive trade networks has been uncovered; for example, the remains of a large obsidian workshop.[3]