For one, it holds so many magnificent buildings and structures that continue to attract and enchant visitors. From the Great Pyramid to the Nunnery Quadrangle and the Palace of the Governors, all of these are proof of the splendor of this ancient city and the Mayans who lived in it.
The archaeologists who are studying Uxmal can only guess about the history of the place based on the architectures that remain in this city today. The multi rooms that seem to prevail in most of the structures throughout the city suggest that large and powerful families lived in the said structures, probably warrior-nobles who lead the pheasants. These leaders were not known, save for one who was named Lord Chac.
The other structures tell a life that involved sports and other forms of recreation. The location of Uxmal tells that its people may have been involved in trades, salt production, and agriculture. The buildings were massive, but they were decorated with intricate artworks and patterns.
From these, archaeologists are able to conclude that the people of Uxmal lived a peaceful life, and fighting might not have played a major part in their existence. Compared to their neighboring cities, the carvings found in Uxmal did not much depict victories and other war-like activities.
These carvings and inscriptions in the structures have helped archaeologists decode the ancient writings of the Mayans and decipher their symbols and glyphs. These inscriptions have played a major role in helping archaeologists today get a more accurate glimpse into the life of this once-splendid city and into the Mayan civilization as a whole.
And to this day, it still sort of bewitches and enthralls its visitors as they gaze into the wonders that are still left intact in this place.
Chichen Itza was way ahead of its time, and it introduced concepts that today look too advance for its era. The ancient citizens of this place relied on science, mathematics, and religion in their way of life. They applied astrology in their day-to-day activities. They were advance in writing, and many of their hieroglyphs are complex and still undecoded until today.
In fact, some of their practices and systems were even better than the ways used in the present era. For one, they discovered penicillin before it was rediscovered in the form that we know it today. They used a calendar that is more accurate than the one we have at present. They were way advanced in astronomy and were able to come up with the ‘True North’.
They made several astrological observations, which they recorded and are now a great source of data to astrologers. These observations enabled them to predict events such as eclipses and other agricultural phenomena.
The Chichen Itza that is known to people today is actually a combination of the styles and way of life of two groups of people. The Mayans were the original occupants. During their time, the civilization flourished and the land was considered a place of magic, mystery, and sanctity. It thrived well until it was invaded by the Toltecs, which brought with them rigid discipline and the concept of human sacrifice.
The Northernmost structures in this place were built with the combined efforts of the Mayans and the Toltecs. Prominent among these are the Temple of the Warriors and the Temple of Kukulkan.
There are many magnificent structures built in Chichen Itza, some built by the early Mayans and the others built when the Toltecs arrived. The Castillo is perhaps the most popular, a pyramid that is considered sacred and almost perfect and was built to serve both a practical and religious purpose.
Not many people know, but there is a secret chamber in this structure that houses the Throne of the Jaguar, and there is a stairway leading here somewhere inside the pyramid.
There are many other structures in the site that were built for a purpose, and today serve as a testament of the glory of Chichen Itza. Two cenotes provided water to its early citizens, the first as a source of water to drink and sustain the crops, the second as a sacrificial well.
Today, many centuries after, there is still a pervading air of power and mystery in Chichen Itza. Its majestic structures seem to contain within them the many years of history that they have witnessed, ready to share to willing visitors.
The city was once a flourishing community. And even after it declined, it remained a populous community for a long time.
Excavations in the area are slowly revealing the way of life of the early Mayans that occupied Ek Balam. So far, what is clear is that its people were strongly religious and practiced activities such as bloodletting and human sacrifice. The buildings were so large that it was not clear how they were able to build some of them without the use of machinery.
Others were still buried, two of which were reported to be considered by the early citizens as portal to the other world. Much is yet to be known about this place as excavations continue.
It sits in the middle of various hills, and its structures include one Great Palace, smaller palaces, a ball-court, altars and other smaller structures that appear to have served as homes to its residents, today estimated at as many as 17,000 – including those living in the areas being farmed.
The buildings in the city are linked to each other in clusters, and there is ongoing excavation and reconstruction being done to get a full glimpse of the city’s story. What is clear now is that its decline was sudden, suggestive of having been caused by an attack brought about by warriors of a neighboring site, probably those of Chichen Itza.
This is a neighboring city to Sayil, and it shares a similar structural design with the said city. It has a central palace with a Puuc-style archway, which is a fine representation of this architectural design.
Aside from the palace, perhaps the most prominent structure in Labna is a pyramid with a temple on top that was probably built later.
Most of Labna is yet to be recovered; a major part of the city is still located beneath collapsed structures and some underbush, partly because it had been in neglect for a long time after its initial discovery in the 19th century. What is known is the possibility that its decline had also been caused by a Chichen Itza invasion.
Its structures are not as large as those found in other locations, but it looks to be one of the most powerful city states during its time. It’s a walled city that practiced weather forecasting and astronomy, and its location made it a primary trading port.
In fact, its structures were designed to serve both religious and practical purposes – to serve as lighthouses to aid the canoes going out to sea to trade.
Tulum rose during the Post-Classic Mayan period around 1200 A.D. Its location contributed a lot to its rise, but it also caused its decline. Because it is near the sea, it was among the first to be conquered when the Spanish conquistadores invaded from the sea. Today, however, many of Tulum’s architecture still stand to give visitors a glimpse of its glory in the past.
It flourished in 600 A.D. and fell as Chichen Itza rose when it was conquered by the latter. However, excavations reveal that it was once a very rich state.
One of the biggest factors in the success of Coba as a city were the lakes that surrounded it. Unlike other cities, it had an abundance of water, which during its time was very important to any place.
Because of this, the citizens of Coba were way advanced in their agriculture. They were also able to build great pyramids, as well as a system of roads that connected the entire area.
So far, some of the structures already uncovered in Coba are the Castillo (a huge pyramid) and the Nohoch Mul (a huge and classic temple). There is much more to discover in the site, and the visitors of this place are given a glimpse of the way the excavation process is being done.
It rose between the pre-classic and the classic Mayan era and, if excavations are to be based on, is one of the prominent capitals in the region.
It covers approximately 42 square miles, and the area contains almost 7000 different architectural structures.
The site is a bit challenging to reach, being located in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, which is known as one of the last remaining rainforests in the Yucatan area. It is distinguished from its neighboring Mayan sites by the great number of stelae or Mayan monuments found in the site—approximately 100 stelae that depict different images.
Most of them show what look like local rulers in rich garb, standing on top of their prisoners. Among the other features found in the sites are a tomb filled with rich offerings, remains of what look like high-ranking captives, as well as a calendar glyph that show dates between 500 and 850 A.D., evidences showing the power of Calakmul during its time.
It was a military and political control place, a powerful city that existed for a long period of time.
So far, the known area of Becan covers more than 60 acres, but it might be even bigger because its boundaries have not yet been established. What is known based on what has been excavated so far is that it is built from limestone.
A moat circles the center of the city, and it might have been protected by a wall once—with remains of a wall still standing today, some parts as high as 11 feet. The moat is especially distinguished because it is not a common feature in neighboring Mayan cities.
This style pertains to the use of two towers with a thatched building on top. The towers in this site, however, have an additional pyramid that serves as a third tower.
The towers in the rear part of the site are still well preserved at present. These towers have narrow and steep staircases. The third tower portrays the creator god Itzamna as a serpent.
However, based on what was already uncovered, it is evident that the site is elaborately built and designed.
All the pyramids, courtyards, and other structures were well engineered. There was even a drainage system that leads into a cistern for collecting rainwater.
Based on the excavations, it appears the city was once used as a stop of traders heading to neighboring areas. It flourished around 500 A. D., although it already appears inhabited as early as 200 A.D.
There is a central plaza surrounded by pyramids, as well as a pyramid built in honor of the gods—the Pyramid of the Masks. Much is yet to be uncovered in this site to truly see its past.
(Some photos from Wikimedia under Creative Commons use)