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Historical Description[]

The earliest inscription at Tulum dates to 564 CE, the height of the Mayan Classical Period. However, it was not until the 1200s - well after the Maya collapse - that the town attained prominence as a trading conduit and religious site. Its original name is thought to have been Zama, 'dawn' in Yucatec Maya, reflecting its position on the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. The modern name of Tulum or 'wall' was given by British explorers in the 1800s in reference to the impressive stone fortifications they found in the abandoned town.

At its height, Tulum oversaw trade by land and sea in goods like cacao, salt, textiles, and copper. Its several large temples displayed influences from the Toltecs and Aztecs in distant central Mexico. Despite its importance, the town’s population never exceeded about 1,600 people. European diseases took their toll after the Spanish arrived, and the settlement was abandoned in the 16th century. Recently a new Tulum has sprung up to service the hundreds of thousands of tourists that visit the site’s picturesque ruins and beaches every year.

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