Description of Uxmal Archaeological Site
Archaeological Site is an ancient Mayan
archaeological site situated 78 km (48
mi) South of Merida in Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. It is one of
the better preserved sites in the region with unique buildings,
beautiful architecture that earned its place on an UNESCO World
Heritage List. Uxmal Archaeological Site was first settled in the 10th century BC
during Pre-Classic Maya Period. It gained great influence in the Puuc Hills region and reached its peak somewhere between 800 and
1000 AD with over 25,000 inhabitants. However by the time the
European settlers arrived Uxmal was a mere ghost of itself.
Constant warfare and agricultural collapse undermined its power.
By the 15th century Uxmal was nothing more than a site for
The tallest structure in Uxmal Archaeological
Site is the House of
the Magician that stands at 100 feet tall. It is found just as
you enter the archaeological park. Mayans believed that it was
home of Itzamna, a great magician who constructed his home in
just one night. In reality the buildings was constructed in
several stages over expanse of several decades. Older versions
of a building were simply covered by later additions as
residents of Uxmal gathered enough resources to allow new
the House of the Magician is closed to climbing. This was done
after several foreign tourists died during accidents here and in
other Mayan sites. Another interesting place in Uxmal is the Nunnery. It
was one of the first places to be rediscovered by modern
scientists. Although it is called Nunnery it was never home to
any Mayan nuns. It was probably a school for priests,
astrologers, healers and other mystical professions that were
popular in the Mayan city- states. The Governor's Palace
occupies five acres. It is one of the best preserved royal
residences in Yucatan and much of the ancient Mayan World. It is
peculiar that despite ability to create massive religious, civil
and other buildings Mayans never managed to create spacious
arches. Mayan arches are wedge shaped and don't offer much space
between the supporting columns. This makes The Governor's Palace
somewhat claustrophobic for the modern men or women.
The present name seems to derive from Oxmal, meaning "three
times built". This seems to refer to the site's antiquity and
the times it had to rebuild. The etymology is disputed; another
possibility is Uchmal which means "what is to come, the future."
By tradition, this was supposed to be an "invisible city," built
in one night by the magic of the dwarf king.
History of Uxmal
While much work has been done at the popular
tourist destination of Uxmal to consolidate and restore buildings,
little in the way of serious archeological excavation and research
has been done. The city's dates of occupation are unknown and the
estimated population (about 15,000 people) is a rough guess. Most of
the city's major construction took place while Uxmal was the capital
of a Late Classic Maya state around 850-925 AD. After about 1000 AD,
Toltec invaders took over, and most building ceased by 1100 AD.
Maya chronicles say that Uxmal was founded about 500 A.D. by Hun
Uitzil Chac Tutul Xiu. For generations Uxmal was ruled over by the
Xiu family. It was the most powerful site in western Yucatán, and
for a while, in alliance with Chichen Itza, dominated all of the
northern Maya area. Sometime after about 1200, no new major
construction seems to have been made at Uxmal, possibly related to
the fall of Uxmal's ally Chichen Itza and the shift of power in
Yucatán to Mayapan. The Xiu moved their capital to Maní, and the
population of Uxmal declined.
Uxmal was dominant from 875 to
900 CE. The site appears to have been the capital of a regional
state in the Puuc region from 850-950 CE. The Maya dynasty expanded
their dominion over their neighbors. This prominence did not last
long, as the population dispersed around 1000 CE.
Spanish conquest of Yucatán (in which the Xiu allied with the
Spanish), early colonial documents suggest that Uxmal was still an
inhabited place of some importance into the 1550s. As the Spanish
did not build a town here, Uxmal was soon after largely abandoned.
How to get to Uxmal
Uxmal is about 85 km southwest of Mérida, and will
take a few hours to explore thoroughly. There is a small museum at
the entrance, as well as a snack bar, gift shops, restrooms and
various local vendors. Be sure to bring a hat, some sunscreen and
good walking shoes. A camera is probably a good idea as well, as the
buildings at Uxmal are very photogenic. The site is open every day
to the public from 08:00 to 17:00.
ADO (Autobuses de Oriente)
offers buses from Mérida that leave at 06:00, 9:05, and 10:40, and
return at 15:20 and 17:00 (also one around 12:00 and 12:30 (It was
12:30 on Sunday). Buses depart from Terminal de Autobuses Mérida
(the main 2nd class bus station), M$55 one-way. Organized tours are
also available from a variety of companies.
Fees and permits
Uxmal admission: M$148 (Yucatán State) + M$65
(INAH), payable at two separate but adjacent (!) windows for