Izamal is 40 miles East of Mérida, Yucatán, at 20.93° North X 89.02°
West. The modern town of Izamal
is a small city, with a population of
18,000 individuals. Modern Izamal nick name is "The Yellow City"
because most of its buildings are painted yellow. Izamal is also known
as "The City of Hills", the hills are not part of the natural terrain,
this "hills" are all overgrown ancient Mayan structures. Izamal has
been continuously occupied since 2200 BC. Ancient Izamal was probably
the biggest city on the Northern Yucatec Plain during the Classic
period. It covered more than 25 square miles. Its monumental buildings
exceeded 1,000,000 cubic yards of volume.
Izamal controlled over 2,500
square miles of territory. Izamal developed a construction system
utilizing megalithic carved blocks, buildings with rounded exterior
corners and projected moldings.
Izamal was partially abandoned with the rise of Chichen Itza
the Terminal Classic (800 AD to 1000 AD). After the arrival of the
Spanish, Izamal was considered a site of pilgrimages in the region,
rivaled only by Chichen Itza. Twenty structures remain of the site
from the Classic period, most of these structures surrounds the largest
and best preserved, Kinich-Kak-Moo ("The Sun as the Red Macaw").
Kinich-Kak-Moo is the largest and best preserved.
This pyramid is 670
feet by 615 feet. The base of Kinich Kak Mo covers over 2 acres of
ground and has a volume of more than 710,000 cubic yards. sitting on
top of Kinich-Kak-Moo base is a stepped pyramid of 10 levels. Four
other huge Pre-Columbian structures are still easily visible at Izamal.
To the south-east of Kinich-Kak-Moo is another great temple,
"Itzamatul" located on the south side of the main main plaza. Another
huge building, "Ppap Hol Chak" Partially destroyed when used as
building materials by the Spanish to construct the Franciscan Mission
during the 16th Century. On the southwest side of the main plaza was
another pyramid, "Hun Pik Tok", and to the west is a temple known as
"Kabul". There originally where great stucco masks on the facade of
this structure. One was still present when Frederick Catherwood visited
Izamal in the 1840's. Fortunately he made a detailed drawing.
Unfortunately Catherwood did not always accurately depict Maya
structures. There are a number of important residential buildings which
have been restored and can be visited. They are Xtul "The Rabbit",
Habuc and Chaltun Ha. Izamal original spread over 26 square miles. Two
sacbe "white road" exit the city for Ake and Kantunil, 15 and 9 miles
away respectively. Izamal control more than 2500 square miles of
territory. Currently archaeologists at Izamal have documented over 163
archaeologically important structures, and more than 3,000 residential