Uxmal Travel Blog

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Uxmal, "Built Three Times", (Yucatec Maya: "oxmáal), is a large Maya site located 34 miles south of Mérida on Highway 261. Many buildings have been consolidated and restored. Currently little in the way of serious archeological excavation and research has been done at Uxmal. Accurate dates of occupation are not known. The population is estimated to have reached 25,000. Most visible architecture is estimated to have been built between 600 AD and 1100 AD. Uxmal was founded by Hun Uitzil Chac Tutul Xiu around 500 AD. The Xiu family controlled Uxmal until after the Spanish arrival. Sometime after 1200 AD all new monumental construction ended at Uxmal. This end of construction may possibly be related to the fall of Chichen Itza (Ally to Uxmal) and the shift of power in Yucatan to Mayapan and the Comom family.

The Xiu family moved their capital to Maní, and the population of Uxmal began to rapidly declined. The Xui family allied themselves with the Spanish in the conquest of the Yucatan. After the Spanish conquest of Yucatán, early colonial documents significant legal activity and a place of importance to the Xui family into the 1550s.
It should be noted that before archaeologists began restoration and consolidation activities that Uxmal was in better condition than most other Maya sites because of superior construction materials, engineering, experience of the labor force and work ethic. Most structures were built with well cut stones set into a core of concrete, not relying on plaster to hold the building together. The Maya architecture here is considered matched only by that of Palenque in elegance and beauty.
The majority of the structures are built in the Puuc style. Puuc architecture has several predominant features, most notably constructions with a plain lower section and a richly decorated upper section. Carvings most commonly found include serpents, lattice work and masks of the god Chac. There are a number of must see structures at Uxmal.
The Palace of the Governor is a long low building erected on a huge platform, it is the longest facade in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.
The Adivino "Pyramid of the Magician" is unusual in several ways. First the perimeter shape is oval, rather than the usual rectangular or square shape. It was a common practice in Mesoamerica to build new temple pyramids directly over older ones, however, the last construction phase of the Adivino (117 feet tall) was built slightly to the east of the older pyramid, so that on the west side the temple the old pyramid is visible.
The Nunnery Quadrangle (A name applied by the Spanish; is thought to be the seat of the government. It  is the finest example elaborately carved facades. Both the inside and outside faces of each of the four buildings of this quad have the carved mosaic applied to the upper portions of each. There are 74 small rooms contained in the four buildings that suraround the courtyard. Each of the four buildings has a unique ornate façade, and each is built on a different level. The northern building is the oldest and the grandest; here you can see many typical Puuc embellishments - Chac masks arranged one over another vertically, serpents and lattice work. The building to the east and closest to the House of the Magician is the best preserved, with a stack of Chac masks over the central doorway and serpents above the doorways to the left and right.
The exact purpose of the group is not known, though, given the size and importance of the site, it is thought likely to have housed visiting dignitaries or administrative offices.There is a large Ballcourt for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame. An intact carved date glyph records the year of dedicated in 901 by the ruler Chan Chak K'ak'nal Ajaw. A number of other significant structure are the North Long Building, House of the Birds, House of the Turtles, Grand Pyramid, House of the Doves, and South Temple. The House of the Turtles is in excellent condition. It sits on the same platform holding the Palace of the Governor and overlooks the Ballcourt.

The majority of all of the hieroglyphic inscriptions present at Uxmal are on a series of stone stelae. These stelae are grouped together on a single platform.

The stelae depict the ancient rulers of the city, and all show signs that they were deliberately broken and toppled in antiquity. Some of the stelae were re-erected and repaired. There are remains of a hastily constructed defensive wall which may have encircled most of the central ceremonial center. There is a wide Sacbe (white road) that links Uxmal with the  Kabah, that is about 12 miles to the south. There is a considerable amount of archaeological evidence at the small island Maya site of Uaymil linking it with Uxmal. Uaymil is located to the west on the Gulf coast. It is likely that Uaymil served as a port for Uxmal and provided the site access to the circum-peninsular trade network.

The first detailed account of Uxmal was published by Jean Frederic Waldeck in 1838. John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood visited Uxmal twice in the early 1840s.

  Désiré Charnay took a series of photographs of Uxmal in 1860. In 1863 Empress Carlota of Mexico visited Uxmal. Prior to her visit some statues and architectural elements depicting phallic themes were removed. Sylvanus G. Morley visited to make a site map in 1909. Beginning id 1927 the Mexican government began their consolidation project. In 1930 Frans Blom of Tulane University visited Uxmal to make plaster casts of the facades of the "Nunnery Quadrangle" to be displayed at the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago, Illinois. There is a small site museum that should be visited prior to exploring the site. The are 3 hotels within walking distance to the ruins. You should allow 4 to 6 hours for your visit. There has been an evening sound and light show that should not be missed.The site is open between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM. Admission fee is approximately $10.00 US depending on the exchange rate.

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photo by: Biedjee