The Maya city on the Yucatán Peninsula was founded around 700 AD and abandoned around 1200. It represents a high point of Maya architecture and art. An outstanding example is the 40 m high fortune teller pyramid (also known as the magician’s pyramid), which was dedicated to the rain god Chac. It was built over every 52 years. Other highlights are the so-called “Governor’s Palace” with its unique mosaic frieze, the “Nunnery” and the Palace of the Masks.
|Official title:||Pre-Columbian city of Uxmal|
|Cultural monument:||former ceremonial center and center of power for the Maya of the area; Buildings such as the Pirámide del Adivino on an oval ground plan with the Templo Chenes, Cuadrángulo de las Monjas, built around a trapezoidal, 65×45 m square, the Juego de Pelota, the ball playground, the Casa de las Tortugas, the so-called »Turtle House«, the Palacio del Gobernador with more than 100 preserved, artistically placed Chac masks on the facade, the 70×20 m Casa de las Palomas and the 31 m high Gran Pirámide|
|Location:||Uxmal, south of Mérida|
|Meaning:||Peak of Mayan architecture and art|
|600 and 950||Foundation and expansion as a ceremonial center|
|1839||Visit of the explorer John Lloyd Stephens|
|1929||Measurements of the ceremonial center|
|1932||Preparation of a first site plan|
|1943||systematic inventory of the most important structures|
The three built
Especially in the morning hours, when there are hardly any visitors and a light haze over the temples and palaces, it seems not long ago that the Mayan rituals determined everyday life.
The Pirámide del Adivino, also called »del Enano«, the »pyramid of the fortune teller« rises in an oval shape – unique in Mayan architecture; this is what the divine Ahauob, who ruled over the people, called this ceremonial building. During the heyday of their culture, the so-called classical epoch of the first millennium AD, the stone pyramid grew step by step to a height of 38 meters over almost three centuries.
If you believe the numerous legends, the cult building was built by a magician in one night. On the other hand, based on research findings, the “magical” building was built over a total of five times every 52 years – in the Maya time system, corresponding to a large calendar period. The temple located inside at the foot of the pyramid comes from the first construction phase. Its facade, decorated with masks of the rain god Chac, is striking. You pass three more temples, two of which are inside, on the way to the top of the structure.
The counterpart to the pyramid dominated by the vertical is the elongated “Governor’s Palace”, which is considered a highlight of Mayan architecture. The impression that the palace resting on a platform makes on the viewer can only be imperfectly reproduced in words. “The whole thing has an aura of architectural symmetry and grandeur,” reported 19th century John Lloyd Stephens, a Mayan explorer traveling through Central America on behalf of the United States of America. The Maya knew how to increase the already imposing dimensions of the palace by erecting the structure on a huge four-step pedestal. And nothing was left to chance during construction: the astronomers calculated that the complex was aligned with the southernmost declination of Venus as the morning star. The most striking architectural design element is a three meter high mosaic frieze that runs over the central ledge. An estimated 20,000 stones – each weighing between 30 and 80 kilograms – were needed to create the dozen of stylized snakes and masks of the rain god Chac, the central motifs of Mayan cosmology. The basement is accessed through eleven entrances, which in turn lead to two dozen chambers. In front of the palace is a double-headed jaguar throne and in the direction of view the Gran Pirámide; The so far little explored building was once the tallest pyramid of the ceremonial site of great cultic importance. An estimated 20,000 stones – each weighing between 30 and 80 kilograms – were needed to create the dozen of stylized snakes and masks of the rain god Chac, the central motifs of Mayan cosmology. The basement is accessed through eleven entrances, which in turn lead to two dozen chambers. In front of the palace is a double-headed jaguar throne and in the direction of view the Gran Pirámide; The so far little explored building was once the tallest pyramid of the ceremonial site of great cultic importance.
La Casa de las Palomas also holds secrets, the monument known as the “House of the Doves” with a huge atrium and pyramid-shaped structures with window-like openings that reminded the Spanish conquerors of Mexico of a dovecote. According to naturegnosis, the Cuadrángulo de las Monjas, the so-called »nunnery«, which consists of four buildings surrounding a 65 by 45 meter courtyard, comes from the last construction phase of the ceremonial center. The sight of the facade design is impressive: You can see the grimace of the rain god Chac with his trunk nose and baring teeth. Snakes – for the Maya mediators between this world and the hereafter – adorn the north building, the oldest and most important element of the “nuns’ square”.