Toltec Culture


The Toltec culture is one of the most representative pre-Columbian civilizations of Mesoamerica in Mexico. This was developed between the 10th and 11th centuries in the northern highlands of Mexico. The Toltecs had a lot of influence on the Mayan people and in the lands of Chichén Itza where this civilization was able to build buildings such as the Temple of the Warriors that reflected their Toltec features. The Aztecs were also linked to the Toltec culture and claimed to proclaim the superiority of their empire in Mesoamerica, that they were descendants of the Toltecs.


What is the Toltec culture?

The Toltec culture is a Mesoamerican civilization from pre-Columbian times that was located in the north of the Mexican highlands between the 10th and 12th centuries. Its capital city was Tollan Xicocotitaln, close to the city of Tula in Mexico. The Toltec name comes from the Nahuatl language and means master builders . The Toltecs had great influence on Mesoamerican art and architecture, especially the Aztec civilization that is the successor to the Toltec culture.


Characteristics of the Toltec culture

  • The Toltec people were initially nomadic until they settled in the state of Zacatecas in Mexico .
  • Its socio-political organization was monarchical of a military nature .
  • They grew corn, beans, and amaranth as main foods.
  • They worked stone and precious metals.
  • Their crafts are linked to their rituals . They worked ceramics, stone carving, painting and murals.
  • They developed architecture by introducing artistic work in their columns with human shapes or winged serpents.
  • The Amaranth was the main food of the Toltecs.

History of the Toltec culture

The origin of the Toltec culture began with a nomadic people who began their journey from the kingdom of ancient Tollan in the year 511 AD and for a period of 104 years they were led by seven guides: Zacatl, Chalcatzin, Ehecatzin, Cohualtzin, Tzihuacoalt, Metzotzin and Tlapalmetzotzin. Their long journey took them to Tollantzinco but after 20 years they moved to a territory they called Tollan or Tula . There his monarchy was installed that lasted 384 years starting from the year 667 AD.


The Toltecs had a lot of influence on a political, economic and religious level in the Mayan people and in the lands of Chichén Itza where this civilization was able to build buildings such as the Temple of the Warriors that reflected their Toltec features.

The Toltecs came to expand to the state of Zacatecas and to the peninsula of Yucatan between 900 and 1200 AD

Over the years, the Toltecs were losing their religious elites and their culture became increasingly warlike.

The Toltecs were very skilled in the field of construction and their monuments and buildings were developed in the postclassic period of Mesoamerica.

In the year 900, the Toltecs had strong confrontations with the Teotihuacanos and they wiped out part of their population.


The Toltec culture began as a nomadic people that also included the ancestors of the Chichimecas.

In AD 759 they settled in the central plateau of the Mexican states of Tlaxcala, Hidalgo, Mexico City, Morelos and Puebla . Its capital was named Tollan-Xicocotitlan or Tula which was conquered by the Chicimecas in 1168 AD.

Social organization

Toltec society was made up of two social classes . In the first place, the upper class in which the castes of the hierarchs, the military and the priests were found. Second, the lower class that was the town made up of artisans, builders, farmers, among others who served the hierarchs and priests.

Government of the Toltec culture

The government of the Toltec culture was monarchical and began in 667 AD and lasted 384 years.

The Toltec monarchy had 8 rulers and one of them was a queen. Namely:

  • Chalchiutlanetzin 667-719 d. C.
  • Ixtlicuechahuac 719-771 d. C
  • Huetzin 771-823 d. C.
  • Totepeuh 823-875 AD. C.
  • Nacaxoc 875-927 d. C.
  • Mitl 927-976 d. C.
  • Xiuhtzatzin (queen) 979-1031
  • Topiltzin 1031-1052

Main cities of the Toltec culture

The capital of the Toltecs was Tollan-Xicocotitlan but their cities were located in the central plateau of Mexico, in the departments that are currently known as Tlaxcala, Hidalgo, Mexico City, Morales and Puebla.

The Toltec government extended from the state of Zacatecas to the southeast of the Yucatan peninsula.

Toltec culture art

His art can be seen in the statues and wall reliefs reflected in his architecture. Its main theme is religious and its materials are stone and ceramics adorned with paintings and handicrafts.


Toltec architecture made significant contributions to Mesoamerican construction in the 9th century. An example of these contributions can be seen in the Temple of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli (God of the Dawn), in which the use of anthropomorphic sculptures that support the roof of the structure can be appreciated. This same case can be seen in the Atlantes statues , 4-meter-high monuments that supported the roof of the Tula pyramid . They also built columns in the shape of a feathered serpent with the head towards the ground and the tail raised upwards supporting the lintel of the entrance of the great room.

Likewise, the construction of mega constructions that existed in Tula can be observed in this culture; territory that housed more than 30,000 inhabitants in large complexes with squared floors and flat roofs built with stone, earth and adobe. The Toltecs had three kinds of dwellings ; houses, residential units and palatial residences .

Language and writing of the Toltec culture

The Nahuatl was the language spoken and written by the Toltecs. Its origin dates from the 7th century and its use was extended until the 14th century with the arrival of the Spanish. Nahuatl became the lingua franca of all Mesoamerica, especially in the territories conquered by the Aztec empire in the 13th century.

The writing was pictographic and has vowels and consonants to make words that have monosyllable, bisyllable or trisyllable roots. The order of the words can be combined in different ways so that the sounds harmonize the message.

The Nahuatl language, also known – in colonial times – as the Mexican language, evolved, forming three major variants according to the geographic space where multiple dialects were spoken. These variants are: Central Náhuatl (for the current departments of Hidalgo, Tlascala, South Central Puebla, and the State of Mexico); Eastern Nahuatl (for the Northeast of Puebla, Veracruz and southern Guerrero); and Western Nahuatl (for the North of Guerrero, Colmina, Jalisco and Durango).


The Toltec culture fed mainly on the products they cultivated such as beans, nuts, among others. But their main food was amaranth , also known as huautli or joy. Amaranth helped them overcome famines in periods of drought , as this plant could withstand various temperatures and was easy to grow. In addition, due to its nutritional value, it was considered the most important crop of Tula.

Religion and gods of the Toltec culture

The Toltec religion was pantheistic because it worshiped the forces of nature (the sky, the water, the earth).

The Toltecs practiced human sacrifices to be in communion and at the service of their gods.

Their main gods were Quetzalcóatl (god of good) who was a feathered serpent and Tezcatlipoca (god of evil). According to their tradition, Quetzalcóatl was exiled by Tezcatlipoca on a raft of snakes, but Quetzalcóalt promised to return.

It is said that when the Spanish arrived in Mexico, the Aztecs believed that Hernán Cortés was Quezalcóalt who was returning to his town and they began to sow all the stale cookies that the Spanish gave them in exchange for gold.

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