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The Toltec culture is an archaeological Mesoamerican culture that dominated a state centered in Tula, Hidalgo in the early post-classic period of Mesoamerican chronology (ca 800-1000 CE). The later Aztec culture saw the Toltecs as their intellectual and cultural predecessors and described Toltec culture emanating from Tollan (Nahuatl for Tula) as the epitome of civilization, indeed in the Nahuatl language the word "Toltec" 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. Among modern scholars it is a matter of 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, whereas 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, Hidalgo. Other controversy relating to the Toltecs include how best to understand reasons behind the perceived similarities in architecture and iconography between the archaeological site of Tula and the Maya site of Chichén Itzá - as of yet no consensus has emerged about the degree or direction of influence between the two sites.


Aztec view

The word "Toltecatl" (Toltec) was originally used by the Nahua in contrast to the word "chichimeca" which describe their own prehistory as a nomadic hunter-gatherer people which later adopted the more "civilized," urban lifestyle described with the term Toltecayotl "Toltecness". Etymologically Toltecatl is derived from the Nahuatl language placename "Tollan" "place of reeds", which to the Aztecs signified "metropolis". The Aztecs also saw the Toltecs as their own predecessors whom they glorified in order to be able to legitimize their own structures of power by claiming royal descent from Toltec lineages. The Florentine Codex describes the Aztec view of the Toltecs like this:

"The Tolteca were wise. Their works were all good, all perfect, all wonderful, all marvelous... They invented the art of medicine... And these Tolteca were very wise; they were thinkers, for they originated the year count... These Tolteca were righteous. They were not deceivers. Their words [were] clear words . . . They were tall; they were larger [than the people today]... They were very devout... They were rich. (Sahagún, 1950–1982: book 10, 165–170)"


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 any meaning of the Mixteca-Puebla art style has also been questioned.[2]

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