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(tŏl`tĕk), ancient civilization of Mexico. The name in Nahuatl means "master builders." The Toltec formed a warrior aristocracy that gained ascendancy in the Valley of Mexico c.A.D. 900 after the fall of Teotihuacán. Their early history is obscure but they seem to have had ancient links with the MixtecMixtec
, Native American people of Oaxaca, Puebla, and part of Guerrero, SW Mexico, one of the most important groups in Mexico. Although the Mixtec codices constitute the largest collection of pre-Columbian manuscripts in existence, their origin is obscure.
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 and the ZapotecZapotec
, indigenous people of Mexico, primarily in S Oaxaca and on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Little is known of the origin of the Zapotec. Unlike most native peoples of Middle America, they had no traditions or legends of migration, but believed themselves to have been born
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. Their capital was Tollán (see TulaTula
, ancient city in the present state of Hidalgo, central Mexico. It was one of the chief urban centers of the Toltec. The city is believed to be Tollán, the legendary Toltec capital mentioned in a number of postconquest sources, including Bernardino de
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). In architecture and the arts they were masters; they were influenced by Teotihuacán and the OlmecOlmec
, term denoting the culture of ancient Mexican natives inhabiting the tropical coastal plain of the contemporary states of Veracruz and Tabasco, between 1300 and 400 B.C.
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 culture. CholulaCholula
or Cholula de Rivadabia
, city (1990 pop. 53,673), Puebla state, E central Mexico. The site of the famous Teocali de Cholula, a pre-Columbian pyramid of great antiquity, the city was an old Toltec center and, when the Spanish came, was an Aztec sacred
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 is considered to be a Toltec site. Toltec civilization was materially far advanced. They smelted metals, and their stonework was highly developed. Their polytheistic religion in later days seems to have centered about QuetzalcoatlQuetzalcoatl
[Nahuatl,=feathered serpent], ancient deity and legendary ruler of the Toltec in Mexico. The name is also that of a Toltec ruler, who is credited with the discovery of corn, the arts, science, and the calendar.
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. Their ceremonies included human sacrifice, sun worship, and a sacred ball game, tlatchli. They are said to have discovered pulque (a fermented drink), and they had considerable astronomical knowledge, as shown in their calendar cycle of 52 years of 260 days each. A period of southward expansion began c.1000 and resulted in Toltec domination of the MayaMaya
, indigenous people of S Mexico and Central America, occupying an area comprising the Yucatán peninsula and much of the present state of Chiapas in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, parts of El Salvador, and extreme western Honduras.
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 of Yucatán from the 11th to the 13th cent. Nomadic peoples (collectively termed the ChichimecChichimec
, general term for the peoples of the Valley of Mexico between the periods of Toltec ascendancy and Aztec ascendancy. Before the 11th cent. the Chichimec were nomadic peoples on the northern fringes of the valley. The Chichimec period (c.
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) brought about the fall of Tula and of the Toltec empire in the 13th cent., thus opening the way for the rise of the AztecAztec
, Indian people dominating central Mexico at the time of the Spanish conquest. Their language belonged to the Nahuatlan subfamily of Uto-Aztecan languages. They arrived in the Valley of Mexico from the north toward the end of the 12th cent.
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. See also pre-Columbian art and architecturepre-Columbian art and architecture,
works of art and structures created in Central and South America before the arrival of Europeans in the Western Hemisphere. For many years the regions that are now Mexico and Guatemala and the Andean region of South America had been the cradle
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an American Indian people of the Nahuatl language group. In the eighth century A.D. the Toltec invaded central Mexico from the north, and in the ninth century they established a large state that embraced the central and northern regions of Mexico, with its capital in Cerro de la Estrella, and later in Tollen, now Tula.

The traditions of Teotihuacán and Xochicalco were nurtured in the Toltec culture. The principal deity was Quetzalcóatl. In the tenth century Toltec military detachments subjugated independent Mayan groups in the Yucatán and the highlands of Guatemala, where Chichén Itzá, Uxmal, Mayapán, Qumarkaah, Ix-imché, and other important Mayan city-states were located. In the second half of the 12th century a new invasion from the north by warlike tribes, among whom were the Aztecs, put an end to Toltec dominion in Mexico. By the time of the Spanish conquest in the 16th century, the Toltec had long been a legendary people; all cultural achievements of the past were attributed to them. The Toltec exerted considerable influence on the development of the Aztec culture.

The relics of Toltec architecture and sculpture are striking in their monumentality and austere grandeur. The stepped pyramid in Tollán was decorated with reliefs of warriors, eagles, and jaguars, and the roof of the temple on top of the pyramid was supported by four colossal (4.6 m high), massive stone figures of warriors. Martial themes prevailed in Toltec art; figures of a semireclining god with a bowl for sacrifices were also common.


Kinzhalov, R. V. Iskusslvo drevnei Ameriki. Moscow, 1962.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Let us think of them as traders and travelers, as explorers and scientists, as politicians and priests mining the resources of the great river systems of North America, contacting other nations like the Olmecs, Mayas, and Toltecs of Mexico and Central America, developing and imitating art styles in new environments, and building great towns and farms across a huge swath of territory, most of what is still the heartland of American agriculture and transport between the Great Lakes, the South and the East, creating a network of cultural communication and an interconnected economy of trade.
Connections between the Maya and Toltecs, who spread to regions like the Yucatan after the fall of Tula may have influenced the development of Yucatan sites such as Chichen Itza (Davies 1980; Diehl 1983; McVicker 1985; but see Jones 1997).
At the 1889 World's Fair in Paris, Mexico prominently displayed Jose Obregon's "El descubrimiento de pulque," a painting describing the mythical discovery of pulque by the Toltecs. (135) Mexico was concerned with its international image as a new nation, and wanted to demonstrate that it had the same kind of deep historical roots and traditions as European nations.
The pyramid's proportions, along with smaller structures that were painted black and white, do not correspond to the Toltec or Teotihuacan cultures of the same area and time period.
In this different time and place the Maya mixed with militaristic Mexican Toltecs. "The institution of priesthood must therefore have been introduced to the Maya by the Toltec....
If you explore the ruins today, you will see numerous reliefs of both the Mayan gods, including Chaac, and the Toltec gods including Quetzalcoatl.
The city was founded in 500AD by the Toltecs but takes its name (meaning Mouth of the Well of the Itza) from a Mayan tribe who made it their home 500 years later.
Squier was influenced by Morton of the American school in his belief that the Ohio mound builders were "Toltecs" who subsequently migrated south to create the high civilizations of Mesoamerica.
But as more archaeological evidence was uncovered and more inscriptions were translated, they conceded that the Maya did practice some human sacrifice, but only in later years and probably at the behest of the Toltecs. As the mystery of the Maya unfolds, the evidence increasingly forces us to conclude that human sacrifice was endemic to Mayan society even in the early stages and that it was much more common than was previously thought, though it may never have reached the level of a holocaust as it did with the Aztecs.