Toltec Indians, a people who controlled most of central Mexico between 900 and 1200 A.D. Their ideas and art spread as far as Yucatn and Guatemala, and strongly influenced the later Aztec civilization. The name Toltec came from their capital, Tollan, whose ruins are located at Tula in the state of Hidalgo, 45 miles (72 km) north of Mexico City. (For many years, archeologists thought that the impressive ruins of Teotihuacn, about 20 miles [32 km] northeast of Mexico City, were the remains of Tollan. However, investigations after 1934 established Tollan's location and convinced most scholars that Teotihuacn was built by an earlier Mexican people.

Quetzalcoatl,Quetzalcoatl, the dazzling Toltec god.

The Toltecs were composed of several groups with different languages; the dominant group spoke Nahuatl, a branch of the Uto-Aztecan family. They had a calendar, a system of ideograms (an advanced form of picture writing), and paper made from figtree bark. Master architects used stone pillars to support the roofs of large buildings and designed flat-topped stone pyramids as bases for temples. Painters and sculptors decorated these structures with figures of warriors and animals. Other craftsmen made pottery and wove cloth; some probably worked copper. Quetzalcoatl, a peaceful nature god, and Tezcatlipoca, a war god, were the Toltecs' chief deities.

Tollan was probably founded in the 10th century by Topiltzin, a peaceful ruler and national hero who was identified with Quet-zalcoatl in many legends. During the 12th century, Toltec power was weakened by plague, drought, and internal conflict between the followers of Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca. Northern invaders forced the Toltecs to abandon Tollan and migrate southward.