Just back from a short vacation in the Yucatan with my brother and sister-in-law. We started and ended our tip at Merida, which has a delightful old city center to explore. [photo gallery] First on our list was Uxmal, my personal favorite! Located in the gently rolling Puuc Hills, it is one of several significant Late Classic Mayan centers in that area. [photo gallery]
The so-called Pyramid of the Magician dominates the modern entrance to the site (showing its less elaborate back side). The main temple entrance takes the form of a huge mouth, still intimidating even today. The pyramid was actually built in five stages, each covering older parts of the structure. Next to this lies the Nunnery Quadrangle, actually a palace or government building, with its cross-hatched facades and numerous masks.
The site has many other attractions including: a huge rectangular building called the Governor’s Palace; a taller Grand Pyramid that sort of blends into the forest; the Dovecote Temple; a Ball Court; and a double-headed Jaguar Throne. There were also plenty of lizards and birds in residence. Here’s a panorama from the top of the Grand Pyramid (large file).
The site had many intact rooms, all based on the Corbel Arch. The example shown here is particularly beautiful/impressive. Note how the walls gently curve toward the center where the tiny “ceiling” fills the gap.
Apparently there is new insight into the ubiquitous masks at Uxmal, Chichen Itza, and other Mayan sites in the Yucatan. Rather than representing the rain god Chaac, scholars propose that they denote hill or mountain beings (witz) and confer sacred status to the structures on which they appear.