Pre-Hispanic Town of Uxmal
Pre-Hispanic Town Of Uxmal
Cultural Mexico Latin America And The Caribbean Etat De Yucatan, Municipalites Muna Et Santa Elena

The ruins of the ceremonial structures at Uxmal represent the pinnacle of late Mayan art and architecture in their design, layout and ornamentation, and the complex of Uxmal and its three related towns of Kabáh, Labnáand Sayil admirably demonstrate the social and economic structure of late Mayan society.

Uxmal forms the centre of the Puuc region in the south-western part of the State of Yucatán. The archaeological investigations and radiocarbon dating suggest that the main structures in the complex were built between AD 700 and 1000. The earliest settlement in the area was around 800 BC (pre-Classic Maya period), but its main development and eventual disappearance was in the Late Classic period (AD 650-1000), notable for the communications and movements between different regions of Mesoamerica.

There are many small valleys in the Puuc region that permitted substantial farming activities;in the Spanish colonial period it was considered to be the 'granary of Yucatán', producing two crops a year, in the Mayan period this was the basis for trade and the exchange of ideas, and probably also people, with other parts of Mexico. This is well illustrated by the Puuc artistic tradition, the evolution of which also demonstrates the economic, political and religious development of Uxmal. A series of hydraulic works, such as reservoirs for storing water, dates from the first phase. The second phase was that of the great urban capitals of the theocratic states that dominated the south-west of Yucatán, of which Uxmal was among the most important.

The period between then and the arrival of the Spaniards was one of commercial states and kingdoms. It was a time of great prosperity, when other urban centres grew up and contested control of the region with Uxmal;the town wall reflects this situation. The Mayapán League broke up during the long war between Chichen Itza and Mayapán in 1441-1541. Uxmal was abandoned by its inhabitants and became no more than a place of pilgrimage until the Spanish conquest.

The main characteristic of Puuc architecture is the division of the facades of buildings into two horizontal elements. The lower of these is plain and composed of carefully dressed blocks broken only by doorways. The upper level, by contrast, is richly decorated with symbolic motifs in a strongly plastic style;the individual blocks make up a form of mosaic. There are sculptures over the doorways and at the corners of the upper level, almost invariably composed of representations of the head of Chaac, the rain god.

By virtue of its height and bulk, the Pirámide del Adivino dominates the ensemble, despite its location in a lower-lying part of the site. It is made up of five superimposed elements, two of them reached by monumental stairways on either side of the structure. It is from the Late Classic period and brings together several artistic traditions, including the Toltec of Central Mexico.

The Cadrángulo de las Monjas is situated on an artificial platform and reached by a stairway on the southern side leading to a monumental gateway. The principal building, on the north side of the complex, is the only one that is two-storeyed;it is also the highest of the four. The decoration is especially rich, and is recognized to be an outstanding example of Mayan abstract and geometric art.

The Palacio del Gobernador (Governor's Palace) is constructed on a levelled natural feature and consists of three elements joined by covered vaults, the highest in the Mayan region. The Casa de las Tortugas is located on the same terrace as the Governor's Palace. It is simple in design but the overall effect is harmonious. The upper storey is decorated only with a series of slender columns supporting a robust cornice decorated with sculptures of tortoises, each different. The ball court, despite its smaller dimension, is an Uxmal example of importance. In style and construction it can be dated to the same period as the Quadrangle of the Nuns.

The Southern Complex: Grande Pirámide and Southern Group This part of the site has not been extensively investigated. The nine-component structure known as the Great Pyramid is less striking than the Pyramid of the Soothsayer. Its upper temple, known as the Temple of the Parrots, has a richly decorated lower storey, unlike other buildings at Uxmal, and probably dates to the earliest phase of the town.