Exhibits on the Plaza

Sculptures: Toltec Warrior

For centuries the great city of Teotihuacan, in central Mexico, dominated much of Mesoamerica, including the Maya highlands. After its decline by the mid-eighth century, and a breakdown of Maya civilization around the same time, a period of political fragmentation followed, in part due to the invasion of Mexico by peoples from the north, notably the Chichimecs and, later, the Toltecs.

The militaristic Toltecs gradually moved into the vacuum created by the collapse of older civilizations of central Mexico. They established their capital at Tula (circa A.D. 950), near Teotihuacan, and absorbed the remnants of Teotihuacan society; their king Topiltzin adopted the title of Quetzalcóatl, or "Feathered Serpent", the central and peaceable deity of Teotihuacan. However, the subsequent domination of Toltec culture is reflected in the story (part history, part legend) of a warrior faction overthrowing Topiltzin Quetzalcóatl, who was exiled, vowing to return one day to save his people.

The war god Tezcatlipoca now became a more prominent figure in the Toltec pantheon. By the close of the tenth century, the Toltecs had conquered the Yucatán -- replacing the benign Maya deities with their own warlike gods -- and had expanded their influence elsewhere in Mesoamerica. In the middle of the twelfth century Tula in its turn came to a violent end, and the Toltec empire broke up in the decades that followed. However, the memory of the Toltecs continued to be held in high regard. Subsequent dynasties such as the Aztecs, claimed to be descendants of these remarkable people.

Medium: Stone
Location: Tula, Mexico
Date: Early Post-Classic Period, A.D. 900 -1200

This is a replica of a stone column that held up the temple roof at the top of a pyramid at Tula, north of Mexico City. The warrior wears a feathered helmet, a stylized butterfly emblem across his chest, a loin cloth and sandals typical of Toltec warriors. He carries a spear thrower in one hand and a pouch of resin incense in the other. On his back is a circular calendar. This column is one of four that were each made from four sections of stone.