Santa Rosa Xtampak

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Palace, back
Palace, back side, photo by Teobert Maler 1891

Santa Rosa Xtampak is an important Mayan ruins in Mexico on the Yucatán peninsula in the state of Campeche . The ruins are located 26 kilometers east of Hopelchén near the border with the state of Yucatán . In Santa Rosa Xtampak the Puuc style and the Chenes style of Mayan architecture meet . The place is on the highest elevation of a range of hills that borders a savannah in the south.

Research history

Plan of Sta. Rosa Xtampak (only the most important parts of the ruins are entered)

The first modern visitors were John Lloyd Stephens in 1841, accompanied by Frederick Catherwood . Because of the depopulation caused by the Caste War , subsequent visits were made considerably more difficult and so Teobert Maler only managed to get to the ruins on the third attempt in 1891. Harry ED Pollock's next extensive research stay took place in 1936. He also published the first survey of the site by George W. Brainerd, Karl Ruppert and Lawrence Roys from 1949. The three-story palace has since been very attractive to researchers. Excavations and restorations have been ongoing since the mid-1990s, initially under the direction of Antonio Benavides Castillo and then continued by Renée Lorelei Zapata.


The remains of the buildings of Santa Rosa Xtampak occupy a roughly circular space almost 800 m in diameter on the top of the hill, the palace and the largest pyramid are close to the center. Elongated buildings dominate, with a single or double row of rooms framing rectangular spaces. Other places, especially in the southeast of the town, are defined by tall pyramids. The three-story palace is an exception both in terms of its floor plan and its location in the middle of a square.

The three-story palace

Plan of the palace

The palace has 44 rooms on its three floors. Unlike the equally large or larger palaces in the Puuc area, it is not the result of a lengthy structural development, but was built in one step according to a sophisticated plan. Just the number and arrangement of the stairs make the precise planning clear. The front of the palace faces east. On this side a monumental staircase leads to the third level and lands in front of a huge snake mouth entrance. Individual stairs lead up to small side temples on the second level. All of the other at least ten external staircases are not functional, but show the steepness and forward inclination of the stairs that are characteristic of the Chenes style , but even more pronounced the Rio Bec style . The two rectangular, angled internal staircases accessible from the west side, which are exactly mirror images of each other, also refer to this style. As required in Mayan buildings for structural reasons, the floors jump back one room width from bottom to top.

Front of the palace

The structure of the building is extremely well thought out. On the show side, the east side, the rooms on both sides of the monumental staircase are largely identical on all three floors. These are rooms with an entrance divided into three by brick pillars. Overall, this entrance takes up almost the entire length of the room, so that it was completely open to view from the outside and was therefore unsuitable for residential purposes. This was certainly also intended, which is why these rooms were used for representation purposes for the local rulers. The rooms on the first and second level each had a room behind them, but there was no space on the third level.

On the north and south sides, which are mirror-inverted, there is a long room with a three-part entrance on the lowest level. Behind it are two smaller rooms next to each other. Between their entrances there is a wide wall panel, which in a somewhat indented field showed a narrative figurative relief that has fallen victim to art thieves since Pollock's visit. This relief was evidently transferred and inserted here from another building, whereby the stones sometimes no longer fit together. A side door leads from the front room to a room below the side temple. The architects from Santa Rosa Xtampak were evidently so sure of the statics of their buildings that they often practiced overlapping rooms, which would otherwise be avoided as much as possible. At the higher level, this spatial arrangement was repeated in a simpler form. There is only one front room with a three-way entrance.

Snake mouth portal on the third floor

At the rear of the palace there is a row of seven entrances, which are arranged in three groups: a middle one with three entrances and two on the side with two entrances each. The middle entrance of the middle group only goes into a small room and was probably only built for symmetry. The two side rooms of the middle group are particularly interesting. From them a narrow passage leads into a small square room, from which the inner stairs can be reached through a corridor, which lead in several turns to the first level. This means that the internal staircase lies under the unclimbed external staircase and replaces it functionally. The stairs lead there into an outer door that leads to a landing that led around the whole building on the roof of the lower floor (today partially collapsed). It is noteworthy that the exits of the stairs here and on the next level up are designed in the form of small houses. From the entrance to this exit, the staircase leads in two further turns to the top level, where it leads back to the exit to the house. Here, too, you can walk around the building on the roof of the rooms below. The two side room groups on the west side each have a room behind them and thus correspond to the usual pattern. But here a side door of the front room leads into a small side room, which is exactly where two unclimbable stairs are opposite each other at right angles.

Corner temple
Back of the palace

At all four corners of the palace, these unclassable stairs led to small temples on the second level, which were erected immediately above a room below.

On the third level there is only a simple chain of rooms due to the set-back of the floors, which, however, had to leave space for the internal stairs on the back of the building through clever room structuring. The rooms all open on the east side: a large central room, next to it on both sides two small, protruding ones, behind which the internal stairs are, and on the sides two rooms with triple entrances, which correspond to those of the east facade below.

The structure of the third level is unique in the Maya area: In front of the strongly recessed central room there is a small courtyard, the opposite side of which is formed by the back wall of the snake mouth portal that stands at the top of the monumental staircase. It does not lead into a room, but into a courtyard, and is therefore only a dummy entrance.

The facades of the palace were kept simple. A three-part base, the middle element of which is mostly smooth, only consisting of a band of columns in the side temples. The middle wall surface is undecorated everywhere, although on the back of larger wall surfaces some recessed fields are arranged symmetrically. The brick pillars are in the Puuc style. The brick door beams are also reminiscent of the early phases of the Puuc style. The middle cornice has three bands, all of which are smooth. The upper wall surfaces are inclined slightly inwards and are also smooth. Large stone pegs protrude from them that once carried stucco figures. The upper cornice always corresponds to the middle one, although the protruding top element has been added. Here, too, there are protruding stone cones. It cannot be said with certainty whether a roof ridge was present.

Inside the palace, many of the rooms have brick benches at the ends of the rooms. The inner walls are smooth, mostly still well covered with stucco. A peculiar decoration can be found above the doors in particular: a band resembling a sawtooth, modeled entirely in stucco.

The building with the snake mouth portal

Snake mouth entrance
Staircase at the back of the Snake Mouth Entrance Building

The snake mouth portal adorns the facade of a small room, which is located at the side in a longer, mostly overturned row of rooms. The room jumps out of the row of rooms by more than half a meter and thus creates the impression of individual buildings typical of the Chenes style. The actual entrance is unusually narrow and is three steps above the ground. The platform in front of the entrance, which is usually found in front of the entrance, which represents the forward lower jaw, is missing here.

Several alterations were made to the building, which may also shed light on similar structures in the other courtyard complexes of Santa Rosa Xtampak. After the building was completed, a staircase was added to the rear that leads up to the roof of the room. A small room was probably built or at least planned there. In order to stabilize the roof for this additional space, the rear wall was reinforced almost halfway through the vault with a wall core, which was clad with stucco at the front. A staircase reconstructed in its lower part leads from the rear to the upper room. It is unusual that the staircase has a central stringer in its middle, which is designed as the tail or abdomen of the reptile, and which in turn ends in a small snake's throat.

Only small remains of the building on both sides have survived. Above a three-part base, there is, as far as recognizable, a smooth lower wall surface. The middle cornice is tripartite, in the recessed middle band there are groups of three low pillars. On the upper wall surface there are also groups of three columns between smooth wall surfaces, which are more reminiscent of shapes in the Puuc mosaic style. The upper cornice corresponds to the middle plus the protruding row of stones as the upper end.

The red house

The red house

Close to the building of the snake mouth portal are two three-room buildings that are remarkably well preserved. Teoberto Maler called the front of the two buildings the “Red House” because of traces of a corresponding painting. It consists of three rooms in a row. The facade corresponds to that which can be seen on the palace and in the Cuartel. The corners consist of a thick column. The lower wall surface has (on the preserved southern narrow side) in the middle of the wall a bundle of two narrow columns. The L-shaped building is very close, only separated by a space of less than a meter, which differs in the upper facade from the Red House by the lack of a central cornice. Instead, the upper wall surface, projecting in the manner of a cornice, inclines slightly inwards, but ends at the top with a three-part cornice of the traditional form. This is a rather unusual shape in the Puuc style, which is very common in the early Puuc.

The building with the double snakemouth passage

Western portal of the snake mouth passage

South of the Red House is a simple building with four rooms. Separated from this, almost opposite the monumental staircase of the palace, there is a building that is unique of its kind. It consists of two wings on either side of a passage. In the passage, entrances lead to two rooms parallel to the passage. Then there are two double rooms to the north and south of the passage, which open to the east and west with a portal with two wall pillars. Particularly noteworthy, however, is the facade decoration of the passage, which shows a large snake-mouth portal on both sides, today only visible in the lowest parts despite the reconstruction. Whether and how this portal was closed at the top cannot be seen from the current building findings.

The Cuartel

Cuartel: Northern building

This misleading name (German: the barracks) denotes a large square of elongated buildings that frame a courtyard approximately 50 m long. In 2010 the northern building was completely restored, the two on the west and south sides were largely restored.

Cuartel: north building, facade of the east wing

Only the northern part is well preserved. It consists of two three rooms, east and west of a small pyramid, to which a staircase leads from the courtyard and the surrounding area below. This pyramid could later have been built over a passage that originally existed at this point. Only minimal remains of the small building on top of the small pyramid have survived.

The facade of the two identical wings of the building follows exactly the Chenes style . The middle room jumps back a little, creating the typical impression of individual houses standing next to each other. This impression is deliberately reinforced by a narrow niche between the facades belonging to each of the three rooms. This niche widens in the upper wall surface, as if the inwardly inclined wall surfaces of two houses were facing each other. The facade itself combined elements of the early Puuc and Chenes styles: a two-part, smooth plinth, a lower wall surface that is essentially smooth, only with pillars on both sides of the side doors and at the corners. The corners are designed differently: either a thick column or a pair of normal thick columns. The middle cornice is tripartite, with a slightly protruding, sloping lower band, an overlying, also sloping row, in which long smooth surfaces alternate with groups of three low pillars and a low upper band, from which stone slabs repeatedly support nothing more preserved figures stand out. This middle cornice jumps up above the central entrance by its own height and thus forms a frame that emphasizes the central entrance. The same effect is also achieved by two fields on either side of the door, which are filled with a triple cascade of masks that are framed by a zigzag band. The upper cornice is the same as the one in the middle, except that the usual sloping end stones protruding far outwards have been placed at the top.

Cuartel, southwest corner

The structure of the western building corresponded to that of the northern wing with three rooms on either side of the small pyramid with its staircase (not restored here). The building was just a series of rooms. The solution for the corner at the transition to the northern building with a small room set in the corner that is only accessible through the neighboring room is strange here. There was a narrow passage between the western and southern buildings.

The southern building consisted of a double row of rooms, at the corners there were small temples, to which steep and unclassable stairs led up. Unlike the two wings described above, there is a passage in the middle. The eastern building had two rows of rooms and a small pyramid in the middle. This wing was obviously not directly connected to the others.

The main pyramid

Monumental staircase of the main pyramid

The main pyramid, located roughly in the middle of Santa Rosa Xtampak, is actually an elongated structure that closes off a large courtyard to the north. The main pyramid probably consisted of three or more closely spaced and merged pyramids. A monumental staircase, which is still well preserved in its lower parts, led up to the middle one. A number of steles stood in front of the pyramid.

The southwest group

Southwest group

The group lies a little over a hundred meters southwest of the palace at the beginning of the slope. An L-shaped building with probably eleven rooms, some of which are extremely wide, has been preserved and partially restored. In one of the rooms there is a remnant of painting on a capstone. The facade of the southern wing of the building has been partially preserved in its original form. There you can see a middle cornice made of three smoothly designed sections and above the entrance to the room closest to the corner protruding stones on the upper wall surface, which may have worn a large stucco mask. The doorways have small capitals on the well-cut stone doorposts. The wall technique and decor largely correspond to the Proto- Puuc style. Between two rooms of the north wing a staircase, originally perhaps vaulted, leads to a higher level.

The southeast square

East building of the southeast square

The square is on the southeastern edge of the center of Santa Rosa Xtampak. It consists of four long buildings with one or two rows of rooms around a square courtyard. On all sides, except the western one, there is a raised part with a staircase in the middle of the row of rooms. No recognizable traces of the buildings on the elevated part have survived. The lower parts of the building are also partially badly damaged and therefore difficult to reconstruct. Overall, the southeast square is structurally very similar to the Cuartel.

The eastern part consists of two consecutive rooms on either side of a wide staircase on a raised part. The outer entrances were divided into three openings by two columns, while those of the southern entrance were partially walled up later. The connection with the southern component is remarkable. Originally there was a narrow, winding passage between the two components, which was later covered with a vault over a corner, for which purpose additional side walls were drawn in. Whether this passage ended blindly in a narrow room or led outside cannot be determined without an excavation. The facade shows thick corner pillars at the corners, the base and the middle cornice have three very powerful sections, namely around a rounded, bead-like middle element, a lower element protruding far downwards and outwards, and an upper element that is less sloping.

The rooms of the southern part open partly to the outside, partly to the outer corners (covered at the southeast corner). The arrangement of the rooms is confusing. What is certain is that under the raised central section there was at least one small interior space accessible from the side.

The northern part is laid out in a similar way; here, too, some of the rooms could be entered from outside the square. Between this component and the eastern one there was a winding passage similar to that in the southeast corner. A part of the outer facade that is still standing reveals the middle and upper cornice consisting of an extremely protruding lower band and an equally large, smooth band above.

The western building, which consisted of a single row of rooms, was directly connected to the southern one. It consisted of two separate parts, leaving a passage open in the middle. Here, too, a small side room had access from outside the square, immediately next to the open north-western corner, which today serves as access to the square. The facade is the same as that of the north building, except that the base, which consists of a row of columns framed by two narrow bands, can also be seen here. A few large stone slabs protrude from the upper wall surface, which may once have carried figures made of stone or stucco.


Lower fragment of stele 2 from Sta. Pink Xtampak

Sta. Rosa Xtampak is one of the few places in the Puuc area and its peripheral zone that has a greater number of legible hieroglyphic inscriptions with precise dates:

monument Date (July calendar) Long calculation
Stele 5 12/25/646 9.10.19? .2? .3
Stele 7 04/29/751
Vaulted capstone 3 02.10.791
Stele 8 01.03.830
Vaulted capstone 1 13.8.869
Stele 3 08/03/871
Stele 1 30.4.889
Stele 6 30.4.889
Stele 4 5.1.911
Vaulted capstone 2 19.6.948
Stele 2 ? ?

The steles were in the courtyard south of the great pyramid, the vaulted ceiling stones come from the palace. Only the steles 5 and 7 give the date in the long count, the rest are shortened information.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. ^ John L. Stephens : Incidents of travel in Yucatan . Dover Publications, New York 1963, ISBN 0-486-20926-1 . Volume 2, pp. 105-115.
  2. ^ Teobert painter : Península Yucatán . Ed. Hanns J. Prem . Gebr. Mann, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-7861-1755-1 , pp. 210-217.
  3. Harry ED Pollock : Architectural notes on some Chenes ruins . Papers of the Peabody Museums of Archeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, vol. 61, part 1. Cambridge, MA 1970, pp. 46-64.
  4. ^ Richard B. Stamps: A study of Late Classic Maya architecture at Sta. Pink Xtampak . Unpublished master's thesis. Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 1970.
  5. George F. Andrews: Pyramids and palaces, monsters and masks, the golden age of Maya architecture. vol. 2: Architecture of the Chenes region . Labyrinthos, Lancaster (CA) 1995, ISBN 0-911437-34-7 , pp. 243-320.
  6. ^ Renée Lorelei Zapata: Santa Rosa Xtampak, capital en la región Chenes. In: Arqueología Mexicana. 75, 2005, ISSN  0188-8218 , pp. 54-57.
  7. Nikolai Grube : Hieroglyphic inscriptions from Northwest Yucatán, an update of recent research. In: Hanns J. Prem (ed.): Escondido en la selva, arqueología en el norte de Yucatán . Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México, DF 2003, ISBN 970-35-0052-8 , pp. 339-370
  8. ^ Daniel Graña-Behrens: The Maya inscriptions from Northwest Yucatan, Mexico . Dissertation. Bonn 2002.

Coordinates: 19 ° 46 ′ 18.8 "  N , 89 ° 35 ′ 55.3"  W.