Thursday, July 9, 2009

Oxkintok Ruinas Story

On Sunday, July 5th, we drove south of Mérida on the Ruta Puuc, an area dotted with ruins, cenotes and underground caverns. We found Oxkintok by accident. It was a surprisingly impressive discovery. As we drove the final four kilometers on the gravel road we were surrounded by partial ruins and unrestored pyramids. Thirty groups of buildings have been discovered at the site. Of those, three main groups have been restored in an 8 sq. km. area. The Ah May, Ah Canul and Ah Zib Groups each from separate eras of life in Oxkintok.

Archaelogists have become excited about Oxkintok in the past several years. This site is located halfway between Celestún on the Gulf Coast and Dzibilchaltún north of Mérida. The three centers are connected by sacbes, or raised white roads. In fact, the number of large constructions at Oxkintok and the abundance of sacbes proves there was a major political, economical and cultural exchange; the Maya had contact with the center of México as well as other Meso-American groups.

They've found inscriptions in the architecture here dating back to the 'Early Oxkintok' phase (300-500 AD) that tell of the Pre-Classic history of life in 300 BC. One of the large structures looks much like the pyramids of Teotihuacán outside of México City, a major Aztec site.

Oxkintok Ruinas

Buildings in Ah Canul Group dating back to 500-600 AD.

(I am unable to move these photos around. They are out of order. I'm going to have to wing it and post the information separately.)

Evidence of two distinct building styles and phases, Ah Canul Group.

The above photos taken of courtyard in the Ah Canul Group.

The road to ruins.

The grounds were extensive and nicely manicured. It was really peaceful there.

The largest restored pyramid in the Ah May Group.

The labyrinth.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Labná, or "Casa Vieja" in Mayan, is located 122 kms. south of Mérida along Hwy 261, or more commonly known as LA RUTA PUUC. "Puuc" means "hilly" or "hills", thus also describes the typical architecture found in this area. Several ruins are located in the vicinity which might be the only part of Yucatán state that is not as flat as a cornfield in Iowa.
Labná is treated as a lesser known ruin because only an area of 300 square meters is open to visitors. Its numerous buildings are spread out over a much larger unrestored, undiscovered area. It is believed at least 3000 Maya lived here between the years 600-900 AD.
The main structures are connected by a series of sacb'e(o'ob) (white roads), the longest of which is shown in the photo below.

Labná is a great day trip from Mérida. We got off to a late start the day we went and didn't stop at other Puuc ruins that day. When we got there we were the only visitors on the site. The temples and buildings are set in an open flat area that is nestled in the Puuc. Other than the manicured lawn, the area is lush with vegetation and birdlife. The caretakers of the area are very laid back, and we took the opportunity to practice some of our Mayan language skills with them. They sell cold drinks and memorabilia and talk story with the visitors.

The first thing you see entering the site is the Palacio. It is one of the longest buildings in the region, very decoratively carved and quite well preserved. There are many impressive and unique carvings, including several of Chak, the rain god.
Contemplating the Palacio is Lynne, visiting from Alaska. This was the first Mayan ruin site she had ever visited.

Looking down the length of the main section of El Palacio.

This is the kind of place I can sit and think for hours about what all this means. A visit to Labná makes for an inspiring location to write or draw.

Chak mask.

Looking at El Palacio from afar. The lawn is inviting, isn't it?
This is a reconstruction of Labná's most famous feature, the corbeled arch, connected to the Palacio by a long sacbé. This scan from the book "El Mundo Maya Reconstruido" written far as I can tell, several contributors. It shows the arch as it was thought to have been a link between two enclosed courtyards.

Today the arch stands alone and connects two separate open plazas.

The Puuc architecture is known for its corbeled arches. The one below is part of the Palacio and we were in awe of its construction.

The longest sacbé here begins at the Palacio and leads to el Mirador, a pyramid topped by a temple topped by a Petén style facade. The pyramid is mostly rubble and cannot be climbed. The temple at the top is positioned to be a lookout, hence the name, El Mirador. It's a good example of the Maya building over sites, adding to sites, and the changes that occurred throughout their time.

Next time I head down the Ruta Puuc, I'll get an earlier start so we can stop at Uxmal, Kabah, Sayil and Xlapak, all nearby. All in due time, folks. We'll visit them all.