Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Uxmal

In the Mexican state of Yucatan, in the Santa Elena Valley, is the site of the ancient city of Uxmal. This site is thought to have once been a significant capital city -- controlling an area of approximately 15.5 miles -- and had three economically/politically related towns: Kabáh, Sayil and Labná. Today it is a tourist site famous for its buildings, such as the Great Pyramid, the Nunnery Quadrangle, the Pyramid of the Magician, the House of the Governor and the House of Turtles. The site now even sports a light show.

Rise and Fall of Uxmal
Archaeologists have used radiocarbon dating and observed the architectural styles of Uxmal to figure out the site’s history. So far, it is thought that around 800 BC --during the Preclassic period --, people began to live in the area Uxmal was built. Time passed and the city of Uxmal came to be, with its height beginning around 650 AD and ending 1000 AD. Archaeologists think this in part because Uxmal’s main buildings were constructed in the Puuc style, which was common from around 770 AD until 1000 AD.

During its height it is thought that Uxmal’s population reached around 25,000. Eventually though, Uxmal was abandoned, around the time of 1200 AD.

After its abandonment, a Mexican lineage known as the Yiu started living at Uxmal (the Books of Chilam Balam state that the Yiu are the founders of Uxmal). The Yiu created an alliance with the cities of Mayapan and Chichen Itza known as the Mayapan League. These three cities eventually waged a war that lasted about 100 years, from 1441 until 1541, and Uxmal was abandoned again. Then the Spanish found it.

Uxmal’s Kings
The chronology of rulers of Uxmal -- like the history of the city’s occupation -- is not well known. In fact there is only information on one of its rulers -- a possibly Terminal Classic ruler called Chan Chac Kaknal Ahau -- along with some information on his parents. Archaeologists have restored some capstones, and dates correlated by J. Eric Thompson match with 907 AD and 906 AD.

Uxmal’s Layout
Surrounded by the remains of a wall, Uxmal’s layout includes groups of structures as well as standalone structures, some of which are located on the top of several terraces. These structures are all aligned the same way except for one, the House of the Governor.
Running through Uxmal, is an approximately 11.2 mile sacbe (road) that goes through the site of Nohpat to the site of Kabáh. There are also water reservoirs.

References:

“The Ancient Maya”; Robert J. Sharer, Loa P. Traxler; 2006

"The Maya" 5th Ed.; Michael D. Coe; 1993


UNESCO: Pre-Hispanic Town of Uxmal

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