Searching for Tollan

Jeffrey P. Blomster

in The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780195390933
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Searching for Tollan

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  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology by Region
  • Historical Archaeology



The Late Classic period ended in 800 ad with the demise of the largest state, Monte Albán, in prehispanic Oaxaca, Mexico. What collapsed was not society but the political systems and elite classes that mismanaged factional competition and they were no longer supported by commoners as they engaged in increasingly exclusionary strategies. In the wake of the collapse of many forms of their power, elites searched for new strategies and initiated a new covenant with commoners, which reemphasized elites' roles in providing Earth and Rain with sacrifices as their ancestors were present at the First Sunrise—the creation of the current era. Individuals who figure as powerful ancestors in the heroic histories of Postclassic dynasties come from distant places, such as the idealized center encapsulated by the concept of “Tollan.” Important Postclassic Tollans include Cholula, Tula, Chichén Itzá, and Tenochtitlan; Classic Teotihuacan may have been the first Tollan.

Keywords: Late Classic period; political systems; elite classes; Tollan; Mesoamerica

Article.  4763 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Archaeology by Region ; Historical Archaeology

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