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The Enduring Toltecs: History and Truth During the Aztec-to-Colonial Transition at Tula, Hidalgo

Shannon Dugan Iverson

Arqueol. Iberoam.

Tula, Hidalgo, was an important early Postclassic city that dominated much of central Mexico as well as adjacent regions to its north and west. For many decades, Tula was thought to be the city that early colonial documents referred to as “Tollan”, or “place of the reeds”. It is clear that the Aztec Empire, a later civilization that dominated a much larger area, revered Tollan and connected themselves to the city and its people, the Toltecs, in various ways. Recent research has questioned whether Tula was indeed the Tollan that the Aztecs revered; instead, Tollan may have been a concept that referred to all of the great civilizations that preceded the Aztecs. These two perspectives, which I frame as the “single Tollan/many Tollans” debate, have important consequences for our understanding of the early Postclassic period as well as colonial configurations of power. I argue that to understand the Aztecs' relationships with their past, and the colonial consequences of those relationships, it is important to shift away from questions of truth. Instead, I concentrate on historical narratives and the social, material, and biological effects that they produced, including the early and late Aztec interventions at Tula. I argue that Jorge Acosta's data provide evidence for an Early Aztec period termination ritual and a Late Aztec period New Fire ceremony that ushered in a new population boom at Tula. In turn, these connections allowed for the unprecedented rise of the Moctezuma family during the colonial period. This evidence forms part of a broader argument that the two sides of the Tula debate are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they both form part of attempts to control, claim, and revere the past in the inherently unstable fields of power that characterized the late Postclassic and early colonial periods in central Mexico.

Memory; Aztec; Tula; termination ritual; New Fire ceremony.

Cite as
Iverson, S. D. 2018.
Los eternos toltecas: historia y verdad durante la transición del periodo azteca al colonial en Tula, Hidalgo. Arqueología Iberoamericana S3: 3-27.

Other Persistent Identifiers

Publication date: May 31, 2018.
First published in English by the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory,

Creative Commons License

© 2018 ARQUEOLOGIA IBEROAMERICANA. ISSN 1989-4104. License CC BY 3.0 ES.
Edited & Published by Pascual Izquierdo-Egea. Graus, Spain.
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