Tags: Maya ruins, Mexico, Uxmal

Date: September 15, 2018

After a Summer trip to Denmark in July and a busy August back in Puerto Aventuras with FĂ©licie becoming a certified open water diver and learning Spanish at a language school in Playa del Carmen while Bjarne was busy cave diving and doing boat projects, Karen Luise came to visit in September. We went on a short trip to the interior of Yucatan to visit some of the Maya ruins in the Puuc region. The word "puuc" is derived from the Maya term for hill and the area is indeed quite hilly compared to the rest of the Yucatan peninsula. Puuc is also used to designate an architectural style of the ancient Maya sites found in this area. The Puuc style is characterized by carefully cut stone mosaics, often repeated geometric elements alternated with more elaborate figurative sculpture set into the blank, flat stone facades of the buildings. Another distinguishing feature is the motif of masks with elephant trunk-like noses that are commonly believed to represent the Maya rain god Chaac.

The most famous of the Maya sites exhibiting the Puuc architectural style is Uxmal. Uxmal was the dominating Maya city for about 100 years around 850 to 950 AD but early colonial documents suggest that Uxmal was still an inhabited place of some importance into the 1550's after which the site was gradually abandoned and left to the jungle. Uxmal was one of the many Maya sites explored and documented by John Lloyd Stephens and his draftsman Frederic Catherwood in the 1840's. One of the most impressing buildings at Uxmal is the pyramid. Is goes by the name "Pyramid of the Magician" or "Pyramid of the Dwarf". According to a Maya myth the pyramid was magically built overnight during a series of challenges issued to a dwarf by the ruler of Uxmal. The pyramid of the dwarf is unusual among Maya structures in that its outline is oval, instead of the more common rectangular outline:

The archeological site of Uxmal is kept like a large lawn with trees growing here and there. This is most probably not like it looked when Uxmal was an important Maya city but in the September heat the shade of the trees was quite nice:

Next to the pyramid was a building with carved stone birds on the roof - the stone tiles of which are carved to resemble feathers:

Another structure next to the pyramid is the socalled Nunnery Quadrangle, so named in the 16th century because it resembled a convent. The complex consists of four buildings. It is believed to be a palace having purely administrative functions but our guide also suggested that it may have been a place of learning. All four buildings have elaborately carved facades:

On the corner of the northern of the four buildings more or less intact trunk-like noses can be seen. They are the noses of masks believed to represent the Maya rain god, Chaac:

View towards the pyramid from the Northeast corner of the Nunnery Quadrangle:

Carvings on the Western building of the Nunnery Quandrangle. Carvings of serpents and human figures are placed on top of geometric patterns in the typical Puuc style:

The governor's palace - a long building on top of a huge plateau. While Stephens and Catherwood were exploring Uxmal in 1842 they made the Governor's Palace their sleeping quarters.They stayed in the centre "apartment" where they hung up their hammocks and mosquito nets. Nevertheless, they and everyone else on the expedition, including the doctor they brought and their native workers and domestics caught malaria, from which they all suffered on and off for the rest of the expedition. At their arrival to Uxmal in 1842 the palace was completely overgrown in contrast to the clean look it has today:

View for the plateau of the Governor's Palace towards the pyramid to the right and the Nunnery Quadrangle to the left. In the left middle ground (just above the people in the photo) is the ball court, where a game, largely unknown today, was played with a rubber ball and stone hoops:

Platform in front of the Governor's Palace with a double headed jaguar throne:

Stone face detail on the corner of the Governor's Palace:

A carving of a parrot on one of the adjoining buildings:

No Maya have lived in Uxmal for a long time but quite a few large iguanas live there:

At the end of our visit to Uxmal, after the guide had left us, we found some low structures that might be a cemetery judging from all the skull and bone carvings on them: