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Uxmal, Yucatan. Mexico

Uxmal, Yucatan. MexicoUxmal in Yucatec Maya is Óoxmáal - an ancient Mayan city of the classical period located in present-day Mexico. It is considered one of the most important archaeological sites of Mayan culture.

It's name translates to 'built three times' but the etymology is disputed; another possibility is Uchmal which means "what is to come, the future." Today, it’s considered one of the finest examples of pre-Columbian architecture in the world.

Located on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, the ancient city of Uxmal was founded around 1,500 years ago by the Mayan people and was once one of their most powerful capitals.

It's still an awesome sight today in which many of the monumental structures survive in good condition, considering the centuries that have passed.

The mammoth Pyramid of the Magician, a stepped pyramid built with unusual oval angles, rather than the sharper rectilinear corners more commonly found in the era's architecture.

Folklore holds that the entire pyramid was built, with the aid of magic, overnight - by tradition, this was supposed to be an "invisible city," built in one night by the magic of the dwarf king.

It is considered one of the most important archaeological sites of Mayan culture, along with Palenque, Chichen Itza and Calakmul in Mexico, there is Caracol and Xunantunich in Belize, and Tikal in Guatemala.

Uxmal, Yucatan. Mexico It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its significance. Uxmal is located 62 kilometers south of Mérida, the capital of Yucatán state in Mexico.

Its buildings are noted not only for their size, but for their decoration as well. Ancient roads called sacbes connect the buildings, and also were built to other cities in the area such as Chichén Itzá in modern-day Mexico, Caracol and Xunantunich in modern-day Belize, and Tikal in modern-day Guatemala.

Its buildings are typical of the Puuc style, with smooth low walls that open on ornate friezes based on representations of typical Maya huts.

These are represented by columns which represent the reeds used for the walls of the huts, and trapezoidal shapes that represent their thatched roofs.

Entwined snakes and, in many cases two-headed snakes are used for masks of the rain god, Chaac - its big noses represent the rays of the storms.

Feathered serpents with open fangs are shown leaving from the same human beings. Also seen in some cities are the influences of the Nahua peoples, who followed the cult of Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc. These were integrated with the original elements of the Puuc tradition.

Uxmal, Yucatan. MexicoThe buildings take advantage of the terrain to gain height and acquire important volumes, including the Pyramid of the Magician, with five levels, and the Governor's Palace, which covers an area of more than 1,200 square meters 0r 12,917 square feet.

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 maybe 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 finished 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, they 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.

Uxmal, Yucatan. MexicoAfter the 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.

Even before any restoration work, Uxmal was in better condition than many other Maya sites. Much was built with well-cut stones set into a core of concrete not relying on plaster to hold the building together.

The Puuc style of Maya architecture predominates. Thanks to its good state of preservation, it is one of the few Maya cities where the casual visitor can get a good idea of how the entire ceremonial center looked in ancient times.

The Governor's Palace is a long low building atop a huge platform, with the longest façades in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.

With an approximate azimuth of 118°, the building is oriented to the main pyramid of Cehtzuc, a small site located nearly 5 kilometers to the southeast.

Observing from there, Venus as evening star, when reaching its maximum northerly extremes, would have set behind the northern edge of the Governor's Palace.

Since these events occur every eight years, always in late April or early May, heralding the onset of the rainy season - it is significant that the decoration of the building's facade contains almost 400 Venus glyphs placed in the masks of the rain god Chac.

Uxmal, Yucatan. MexicoThere are eight bicephalic serpents above the main entrance; additionally, numerals 8 in bar-and-dot notation appear on two Chac masks at the northern corners of the palace.

The Adivino - also known as the Pyramid of the Magician or the Pyramid of the Dwarf, is a stepped pyramid structure, unusual among Maya structures in that its layers' outlines are oval or elliptical in shape, instead of the more common rectilinear plan.

It was a common practice in Mesoamerica to build new temple pyramids atop older ones, but here a newer pyramid was built centered slightly to the east of the older pyramid, so that on the west side the temple atop the old pyramid is preserved, with the newer temple above it.

The structure is featured in one of the best-known tales of Yucatec Maya folklore, "el enano del Uxmal" - the dwarf of Uxmal, which is also the basis for the structure's common name.

Multiple versions of this tale are recorded. It was popularised after one of these was recounted by John Lloyd Stephens in his influential 1841 book, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan.

According to Stephens' version, the pyramid was magically built overnight during a series of challenges issued to a dwarf by the gobernador (ruler or king) of Uxmal. The dwarf's mother (a bruja, or witch) arranged the trial of strength and magic to compete against the king.

The Nunnery Quadrangle was built from 900-1000, and the name related with nuns was assigned in the 16thth century because it resembled a convent.

Uxmal, Yucatan. MexicoThe quadrangle consists of four palaces placed on different levels that surround a courtyard. Of the different buildings that make up this palatial complex, several vault tops have been recovered.

They are painted to represent partial calendrical dates from 906 to 907 AD, which is consistent with the Chan Chahk’ahk Nalajaw period of government.

The formal entrance, the hierarchy of the structures through the different elevations, and the absence of domestic elements suggest that this space corresponds to a royal palace.

In it administrative and non-residential functions, where the ruling group must have had meetings to collect the tribute, make decisions, and dictate sentences among other activities.

These set of buildings are the finest of Uxmal's several fine quadrangles of long buildings. It has elaborately carved façades on both the inside and outside faces.

A large Ballcourt for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame. An inscription on it says that it was dedicated in 901 by the ruler Chan Chak K'ak'nal Ajaw, also known as Lord Chac - before the decipherment of his corresponding name glyphs.

The ball court's condition is very deteriorated, and it’s made of two constructions of medium dimensions that make up the sides of the court with the rings by which the ball was to be introduced.

The originally carved stone rings were removed to protect them from the elements and were replaced by reproductions. This game has always been related to mythical and cosmic aspects.

Uxmal, Yucatan. MexicoThe ball symbolized the movements of the stars in the sky and the players, in repeated occasions, symbolically staged the fight of the day against the night or the struggle of the deities of the underworld against the gods of heaven.

A number of other temple-pyramids, quadrangles, and other monuments, some of significant size, and in varying states of preservation, are also at Uxmal.

These include North Long Building, House of the Birds, House of the Turtles, Grand Pyramid, House of the Doves, and South Temple.

The majority of hieroglyphic inscriptions were on a series of stone stelae unusually grouped together on a single platform.

The stelae depict the ancient rulers of the city. They show signs that they were deliberately broken and toppled in antiquity - some were re-erected and repaired.

A further suggestion of possible war or battle is found in the remains of a wall which encircled most of the central ceremonial

A large raised stone pedestrian causeway links Uxmal with the site of Kabah, some 18 kilometers to the south-east.

Archaeological research at the small island site of Uaymil, located to the west on the Gulf coast, suggests that it may have served as a port for Uxmal and provided the site access to the circum-peninsular trade network.

The site, located not far from Mérida beside a road to Campeche, has attracted many visitors since the time of Mexico's independence.

Uxmal, Yucatan. MexicoThe first detailed account of the ruins was published by Jean Frederic Waldeck in 1838. John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood made two extended visits to Uxmal in the early 1840s, with architect/draftsman Catherwood reportedly making so many plans and drawings that they could be used to construct a duplicate of the ancient city.

Unfortunately most of the drawings are lost. Désiré Charnay took a series of photographs of Uxmal in 1860. Some three years later Empress Carlota of Mexico visited Uxmal.

In preparation for her visit local authorities had some statues and architectural elements depicting phallic themes removed from the ancient façades.

Sylvanus G. Morley made a map of the site in 1909 which included some previously overlooked buildings. The Mexican government's first project to protect some of the structures from risk of collapse or further decay came in 1927.

In 1930 Frans Blom led a Tulane University expedition to the site. They made plaster casts of the façades of the "Nunnery Quadrangle"; using these casts, a replica of the Quadrangle was constructed and displayed at the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago, Illinois.

The plaster replicas of the architecture were destroyed following the fair, but some of the plaster casts of Uxmal's monuments are still kept at Tulane's Middle American Research Institute.

In 1936 a Mexican government repair and consolidation program was begun under José Erosa Peniche.

Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom visited on the 27th>/sup> of February 1975 for the inauguration of the site's sound & light show.

Uxmal, Yucatan. MexicoWhen the presentation reached the point where the sound system played the Maya prayer to Chaac - the Maya rain deity, a sudden torrential downpour occurred.

Gathered dignitaries including Gaspar Antonio Xiu, a descendant of the Xiu noble Maya lineage were delighted.

Since then three hotels and a small museum have been built within walking distance of the ancient city.

Sadly, microbial biofilms have been found degrading the stone buildings at Uxmal and Kabah. Phototrophs such as Xenococcus are found more often on interior walls.

Stone degrading Gloeocapsa and Synechocystis were also present in large numbers. Aureobasidium and Fusarium fungi species are present at Chichen Itza and Uxmal. Cyanobacteria were prevalent in the interiors of rooms with low light levels.

Mérida is the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán, and the largest city on the Yucatán Peninsula. The city is located in the northwest part of the state, about 35 kilometers or 22 miles off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

The metro area population, which includes Umán Municipality, Kanasín Municipality, and Mérida Municipality, has a population of 1,201,000.

Merida is named after the town of Mérida in Extremadura, Spain. It was built on the site of the Mayan city of T'hó, which was also called Ichkanzihóo or Ichcaanzihó in reference to its pyramids.

Uxmal, Yucatan. MexicoCarved Maya stones from ancient T'ho were used to build the Spanish colonial buildings which are numerous in downtown Mérida; these stones are visible, for instance, in the walls of the main cathedral.

Much of Mérida's architecture from the colonial period through the 18th century and 19th century is still standing in the central historic of the city.

From colonial times through the mid-19th century, Mérida was a walled city intended to protect the Peninsular and Criollo residents from periodic revolts by the indigenous Maya.

Several of the old Spanish city gates survive, but modern Mérida has expanded well beyond the old city walls.

Late in the 19th century and the early 20th Century, the area surrounding Mérida prospered from the production of henequén. For a brief period, around the turn of the 20th century, Mérida was said to house more millionaires than any other city in the world.

The result of this concentration of wealth can still be seen today. Many large and elaborate homes still line the main avenue called Paseo de Montejo, though few are occupied today by individual families.

Many of these homes have been restored and now serve as office buildings for banks and insurance companies. Korean immigration to Mexico began in 1905 when more than a thousand people arrived in Yucatán from the city of Incheon.

Completed in 1911 by Camilo and Ernesto Cámara Zavala, “Las Casas Gemelas” (The Twin Houses), are two side by side French and Spanish style mansions that remain from the early 20th Century.

Uxmal, Yucatan. MexicoThey are two of only a few houses that are still used as residences on Paseo Montejo from that era. They are owned by the Barbachano and Molina Méndez families.

During the Porfiriato, the Barbachano house held cultural events that hosted artists, poets, and writers. In the mid-1900s, the Barbachanos hosted aristocrats including Princess Grace and Prince Ranier of Monaco, as well as first lady of the U.S., Jacqueline Kennedy.

Mérida has one of the largest centro histórico districts in the Americas - surpassed only by Mexico City and Havana, Cuba. Colonial homes line the city streets to this day, in various states of disrepair and renovation.

The historical center of Mérida is currently undergoing a minor renaissance as more and more people are moving into the old buildings and reviving their former glory.

The Centro Histórico area is becoming increasingly popular with Americans and other expatriates who are rescuing and restoring the classic colonial structures. In 2007 the Los Angeles Times recently noted this surge of interest in rescuing Mérida's historic downtown.

As the state and regional capital, Mérida is a cultural center, featuring multiple museums, art galleries, restaurants, movie theatres, and other shops.

Mérida retains an abundance of colonial buildings and is a cultural center with music and dancing playing an important part in day-to-day life.

Uxmal, Yucatan. MexicoAt the same time it is a modern city with a range of shopping malls, auto dealerships, hotels, restaurants, and leisure facilities.

The famous avenue Paseo de Montejo is lined with original sculpture. Each year, the MACAY Museum in Mérida mounts a new sculpture installation, featuring works from Mexico and one other chosen country.

Each exhibit remains for ten months of the year. In 2007, sculptures on Paseo de Montejo featured works by artists from Mexico and Japan.

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