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Pre-Columbian city of Uxmal
UNESCO world heritage UNESCO World Heritage Emblem

overall view
View over Uxmal. Front left: pigeon house, right: main pyramid. Back left: northern group, middle: nuns square, right: turtle house and magician pyramid
National territory: MexicoMexico Mexico
Type: Culture
Criteria : i, ii, iii
Reference No .: 791
UNESCO region : Latin America and the Caribbean
History of enrollment
Enrollment: 1996  (session 20)

Map: Mexico
Location of Uxmal in Yucatán

Uxmal (IPA: [ ʊʃ.ˈmal ]) refers to the ruins of a formerly large and culturally important Mayan city in Mexico . The name Uxmal may come from “ox-mal”, which means “three times” in the Mayan Yucatecan language . The ruined city is located in the gently undulating karst landscape of Puuc ( Mayathan pu'uk ) on the Yucatán peninsula in the Mexican state of the same name , about 80 kilometers south of Mérida .

The city flourished at the end of the Late Classical period in the 9th and early 10th centuries AD, but was completely deserted a century or two later. The buildings are dominated by the " Pyramid of the Magician " (= "Piramide del Mago"), which, like most of the buildings in Uxmal, was repeatedly rebuilt and expanded during the settlement of the city. The most powerful single building is the so-called Governor's Palace, located on a high platform. Today Uxmal is one of the most visited ruins of the Maya and offers a good insight into the original appearance of the city through restoration of buildings.


According to colonial chronicles and archaeological findings

According to various colonial sources, in particular state surveys (Relaciones Geográficas) from 1581 and the Chilam-Balam books, which are based on autochthonous traditions, it was a Hun Uitzil Chac or an Ah Cuitok Tutul Xiu, both from the Xiu family , who settled in Uxmal. A K'atun 2 Ajaw is named as the time for this (in the Códice Pérez ) , which according to the Mayan calendar recurs every 256 years. According to the archaeological findings, a period from 731 to 751 AD comes into question. This is linked to the assumption that the Xiu probably came to Yucatán as immigrants from the area of ​​today's Tabasco state . The information in the Códex Pérez also contradicts the literally consistent statement with a different time information in the Chilam-Balam text by Tizimín , which is why the dating must not be regarded as authentic. Because of these discrepancies, the age, builder, residents and rulers of the city of Uxmal can still not be reliably identified from historical sources.

Façade figure of a ruler surrounded by hieroglyphics, now in the local museum

The only ruler of Uxmal known from contemporary hieroglyphic inscriptions is Chan Chak K'ak'nal Ajaw . Under him, the city was magnificently expanded and brought into the form that is visible today (after the excavations and restorations). The inscriptions referring to it date from the short period between the years 895 and 907. Uxmal had already been an important city a few centuries earlier.

In the early 10th century, the construction of large stone buildings was stopped. However, a considerable number of buildings (called “C-shaped” because of their ground plan) with walls and roofs made of wood and palm leaves show that Uxmal was still inhabited by a smaller population for some time afterwards. However, political power and economic conditions were no longer sufficient to erect or continue the construction of monumental structures. When the last permanent residents left the city cannot be determined. The same process took place in Uxmal as in the entire Puuc area, albeit with a certain time lag. Later in Uxmal (as in other places in the Puuc area), occasional visitors made offerings in the rubble of collapsing buildings.

According to the late reports, the Xiu moved the capital of their principality from Uxmal to Maní , where the family is based to this day. All these reports have in common that they were drawn up many centuries after the end of the city of Uxmal or brought into the form known today. In 1536 AD (according to the Cronica de Oxkutzcab from 1538) there was a group of Xiu pilgrims who wanted to make sacrifices at the sacred cenote of Chichén Itzá for an end to a drought by the Cocom , who came from Chichén Derive Itzá, killed in his sleep. This could be seen as retaliation for a massacre committed much earlier by the Xiu of the Cocom in Ich Paa . All these scattered clues speak for a long-lasting and rather conflictual relationship between Uxmal and Chichén Itzá.

Research history

During an inspection trip by the Spanish Franciscan Alonso Ponce in 1588, the city had long been in ruins. His secretary Ciudad Real gives a relatively detailed account. The first modern description comes from Jean Frédéric Maximilien de Waldeck (his connection with the German noble house of the same name is unconfirmed), who visited Uxmal in 1835.

Panoramic drawing by Frederick Catherwood, 1843

Inspired by Waldeck's report, the North American explorer John Lloyd Stephens , accompanied by Frederick Catherwood as a draftsman and architect, undertook two extended journeys through Central America. On these he also visited Uxmal and described numerous ruins that Catherwood illustrated. The reports written by Stephens made the Central American ruins - and including in an important place Uxmal - known to interested parties in North America and Europe. Works of art he took from the buildings later perished in a fire in New York . Stephen's descriptions stimulated the French Désiré Charnay to go on research trips, on which he took numerous photographs, and the Austrian Baron Emmanuel von Friedrichsthal , who did not publish his report.

Nonnenviereck, west building, photo by Teobert Maler, around 1890
Bird's eye view from the north, drawing by William Holmes, around 1895
Stone mosaic, main entrance to the Governor's Palace, photo from 1927

Teobert Maler was also inspired by Stephens . From 1886 he undertook extensive archaeological research trips to the Yucatan peninsula. In Uxmal he only took numerous excellent documentary photos. An architectural study, which also included Uxmal, undertook soon after him William Herny Holmes . The German scholar Eduard Seler used his drawings as well as the notes and photographs provided by the painter in a book about Uxmal. Maler also advised Sylvanus G. Morley before his visit to Uxmal in 1907, when he made the first reliable measurements.

In 1927, as a brief study by Federico Mariscal shows, no excavations or restorations had yet taken place in Uxmal; the visit itself was difficult. It was not until 1930 that Frans Blom undertook very detailed measurements in the nuns' square, on the basis of which a true-to-life reproduction was made for the World Exhibition in Chicago in 1933 , but which was not preserved. In this context, the first precise and fairly complete mapping of the most important groups of ruins was carried out by Robert H. Merrill.

The earliest restorations were carried out after 1936 on behalf of the Mexican Ministry of Education (Secretaría de Educación Pública) José A. Erosa Peniche, whose documentation was the basis for a detailed presentation by Ignacio Marquina. At the same time, but independently, Harry Pollock studied numerous building complexes outside the center of Uxmal. In 1941 Sylvanus Morley carried out minor excavations on the facades of the main pyramid.

In addition to the measures for restoration and stabilization of the buildings by the INAH , which have been ongoing since the 1940s , only a few research-related investigations have taken place: George F. Andrews carried out an analysis of the city layout and the monumental architecture . In his dissertation, completed in 1981, Jeff Kowalski published an architectural-art-historical treatise on the Governor's Palace, which also includes a comprehensive account of Uxmal's role in cultural history. This treatise is complemented by a study by Alfredo Barrera Rubio based on the excavations of the northern platform edge of the governor's complex. Kowalski, who at the beginning of the 21st century can be regarded as the undisputed authority for the cultural history of Uxmal, has also unearthed a building in Uxmal that is completely out of the ordinary , the round pyramid .

As part of his extensive documentation of Mayan inscriptions, Ian Graham has published two volumes on Uxmal that contain the first complete map of the city (the southern extent that Graham included in his mapping was not published).

The main aim of the modern archaeological work in Uxmal was to make the ruins accessible to tourism and to stop the decay of the best preserved buildings. This task was completed by 1970 at the latest. Since then, the necessarily more hypothetical reconstruction of heavily dilapidated buildings has become increasingly important. However, most of Uxmal is still covered by dense forest and not accessible to visitors. Outside the archaeological zone, there are other, partially exposed ruins on the site of immediately adjacent hotels. The old city extended far into the surrounding area: the official definition of the area of ​​Uxmal by the INAH covers an area of ​​more than 10 square kilometers.

Research problem

The history of Uxmal is virtually unknown. The archaeological research has been only superficial, in spite of a great achievement in the field of conservation and reconstruction. This is shown by the fact that even with smaller works on buildings that have been reconstructed for a long time, which for technical reasons go somewhat deeper, older cultural layers are repeatedly discovered. The most important path of knowledge so far is still the history of architecture, more precisely the sequence of building and decorative styles and their (hypothetical) development. Since buildings of the last style phase, the “late Uxmal style”, can only be found here, Uxmal is the focal point of this branch of research. The few hieroglyphic inscriptions have so far provided little knowledge of the political and social conditions. In addition, they are practically limited to the time between the 9th and 10th centuries.

The reports from the colonial era regularly mention Uxmal, but their statements are succinct and are considered to be not very authentic. The Códice Pérez suggests a political connection with Chichén Itzá and Mayapán, although this is obviously a later interpolation. Such a political connection, which is mentioned again and again in modern literature under the name “ League of Mayapán ”, is hardly imaginable for archaeological reasons alone, since the latter two cities did not exist at the same time. Nevertheless, individual similarities in the iconography cannot be denied, such as the depiction of feathered serpents or Toltec costume elements and armament that do not belong to the canon of Mayan depictions. In the archaeological literature there is also controversial discussion as to how long Uxmal and Chichén Itzá have overlapped and what effects this may have had on the development of Chichén Itzá. The question of which political sphere of power Uxmal may have ruled at the time of his heyday is also open. Whether the “sacbe” according to Nohpat and Kabah can be considered an indication of this is controversial.

Geology and ecology

Medium-sized aguada south of Uxmal, with plenty of water towards the end of the dry season

Uxmal is located at around 50 meters above sea level in a gently undulating karst landscape, which is delimited in the north and south, 10 kilometers away, by a terrain level that is approximately 100 to 150 meters higher. In this basically waterless landscape, the weathered limestone formed deep soils that could be used for autochthonous agriculture. In shallow depressions of different sizes, especially around Uxmal, the sedimentation led to a natural seal, so that the rainwater that ran off the surface could collect and survive well into the dry season.

Large Aguada Chenchan west of the Cementerio group, 250 × 100 meters, without water

These aguadas were artificially expanded by the Maya and provided with well-like water collectors at the deepest points. The favorable water supply was an important location advantage for the city. In the 19th century, the Aguadas were largely drained to avoid malaria. In addition, numerous cisterns can be found in Uxmal as in the entire region. The water table lies at a depth of around 65 meters and was inaccessible with the technical possibilities of the Maya.

The Uxmal region is covered by a mostly deciduous dry forest with a maximum tree height of 15 meters, which is consistently secondary growth that is the result of continuous clearing for the purpose of creating fields in the Milpa system. The annual rainfall is 900 mm, but with significant fluctuations, the mean annual temperature at 26  ° C .

Tourist development

Plan of the accessible parts of Uxmal

In Uxmal, the center of the old city has been largely restored. The impression that the visitor receives corresponds to the state of the city in the 10th century, when the first signs of decay appeared on the monumental buildings. At that time the completely free areas of the courtyards, which were originally lined with white stucco, were already partially covered with vegetation, between which numerous low buildings made of perishable material stood (see C-shaped buildings ).

The trees planted in the 1980s south of the nuns' square and on the platform of the governor's palace give a distorted picture. Most of Uxmal is now covered by forest and not accessible to visitors. The reasons are on the one hand the danger from the cistern openings scattered all over the place, on the other hand the risk of damage to archaeological remains.

In Uxmal there is a small museum in the visitor center. An evening light and sound show was also set up. In 1996, Uxmal was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List as a cultural monument .

On March 30, 2015, the memorial was included in the International Register of Cultural Property under the special protection of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict .

Designs in Uxmal

Overall, the buildings of Uxmal are largely scattered randomly over the site. They reach a distance of one to two kilometers from the center, especially to the south. The simple residential buildings of the rural population extend far beyond this.

The earliest buildings are small buildings in the early forms of the Puuc style; they are concentrated in the Nord group. According to individual, rather accidental finds, there are often early constructions under or in the core of later buildings, or these were even torn down in ancient times. The buildings, accessible and restored for tourism, belong to the late variants of the Puuc style, especially the late Uxmal style, which is dated to the late 9th and early 10th centuries. A more exact scientific dating fails because the inaccuracy, especially of the calibration (calibration based on tree ring data, but in other regions of the earth, and their fluctuations due to natural changes) is greater than the assumed duration of the style phases. Only a few dated inscriptions give more precise clues (see below). Decisive for the classification in phases of the Puuc style is first and foremost the design of the facades and their stone decoration, which are therefore presented here in more detail, together with structural details. Pollock was the first to develop the style sequence from the presumed development of decor shapes from simpler to increasingly complex.

Towards the end of the settlement period of Uxmal, as in the other cities of the Puuc, a social change took place, which is expressed in a changed use of the stone buildings: the wide, multiply divided entrances, which in some buildings have taken up almost the entire front and They made them suitable for representative purposes, but hardly suitable for residential purposes, were walled up. Only a narrow entrance remained. From this it can be concluded that the buildings were no longer used in their representative function, but as apartments. Correspondingly, even passages to interior rooms were redesigned. Examples of this can be found in the Vogel Plaza. In Uxmal, as in the entire region, there are buildings whose construction has been demolished (e.g. the summit building of the Casa de la Vieja ).

Palace complexes

Example of a palace complex, nuns square

Characteristic for the urban area of ​​Uxmal are large courtyards, which are bordered on three sides by elevated, elongated palace buildings (each with two parallel rows of rooms). The fourth side is either taken up by a raised building or a massive pyramid, on the top of which there was also a small palatial building. Some of the courtyard complexes are also staggered one behind the other as in the pigeon house complex.

C-shaped building

Example of a C-shaped building, reconstructed, south of the nuns' square

In Uxmal there are also many so-called C-shaped buildings. The name makes the embarrassment of archeology with these buildings clear. They only have back and side walls, the front is open, there were sometimes stone columns that had been removed from other buildings and which must have supported the roof made of perishable material; but mostly the beams were made of wood. Along the back wall there is always a brick bench of different widths, which is sometimes interrupted by parts protruding further forward.

The function of these buildings is unclear. There is little to be said for use as residential buildings, as their elongated shape without a closed front wall neither offers protection from the weather nor guarantees privacy. It is only clear that, wherever they occur, they belong to the latest settlement phase. In Uxmal, the C-shaped buildings are mainly in the courtyards of the palace groups. A cluster of these structures has been exposed between the platform of the Governor's Palace and the Adivino Pyramid. There are also C-shaped buildings with side rooms, in one case even with a brick vault.

C-shaped buildings can be found in a wide area from Peten in Guatemala to the northern Yucatán, for example in Ek Balam and Culubá . They seem to be pre-forms for the elongated portico in Chichén Itzá and Mayapán.

City layout

Characteristic for Uxmal are the large, almost square squares, which were framed on all sides by elongated buildings in the classic Puuc style and a late variant (the late Uxmal style) that only appears here. The courses are oriented north-south. The modern design with numerous trees providing shade (planted after 1980) does not reflect the original situation, which was characterized by large squares with white stucco floors.

It is believed that around 25,000 people lived on the site of the city, whose core zone was surrounded by a low wall. The total populated area around is estimated at 10 km². Uxmal was connected to the southeastern city of Kabah by a wide, cleared sacbe via the so far not archaeologically investigated and inaccessible medium-sized city of Nohpat , but the starting point of this road is probably not in the center of Uxmal itself, but in a small group of ruins in the east.

Important building complexes

The central buildings of Uxmal (all names come from more recent times and have no relation to the actual function of the buildings) are oriented clockwise from the cardinal points with about 17 ° deviation, on an area of ​​0.5 km². The central part of Uxmal was surrounded by a low wall with numerous interruptions, which cannot have been a defensive structure. Presumably a certain district was symbolically demarcated with this wall.

The complex of the Governor's Palace

Big platform

Platform, northeast corner, remains of the curve
Double jaguar, figure on the platform

The complex comprises several buildings on a very large common platform of 185 meters × 164 meters, which rises 7 to 14 meters above the gently undulating terrain. Hidden in the body of this platform is a natural elevation that has reduced the building material used. The outside of the platform was divided into 6 to 7 steps and sat on a slightly larger but low platform, which compensated for the unevenness of the terrain.

The corners of the actual platform were made of very large, rounded blocks of stone. Two flights of stairs led up to the platform from the north: one that aimed directly at the northern entrance of the turtle house and another that reached the surface of the platform approximately in front of the governor's palace. Another staircase existed from the west side behind the so-called old "Chenes" temple. It has not yet been clarified whether there was another staircase immediately east of the main pyramid.

Governor's Palace (Palacio del Gobernador)

Governor's Palace from the east
Connection of the wings

The Governor's Palace, a building 100 meters long, stands a little west of the center of the large platform described on another, smaller, long and narrow platform about 109 meters long, to which a 40-meter-wide staircase leads up from the east. The building is divided into three parts, which were originally connected by two covered gateways, which were later partially walled up and redesigned into small rooms.

The 14 different sized rooms are arranged in two parallel rows. As is the rule, the back rooms are a little higher. There are also three rooms at the extreme corners that do not have this pattern. Two of them are the only ones that can be entered through an entrance on the narrow side of the building (the north and south sides). The central room of the main facade is clearly the most important here as well, because it is characterized by three entrances and the facade decor (see below) is oriented towards it. All rooms impress with the unusual height of both the lower wall surface up to the vault and the vault itself. All doors had two door beams made of Chicozapote wood, which were only replaced by concrete during the restoration.

Stephens took out the hieroglyphic carved door beams in the middle entrance; they were later burned in New York. The intensive use of this wood, which is very resistant to termites, makes it clear that at that time near Uxmal there must have been sufficient stocks of this tree, which now only occurs in areas several hundred kilometers away. The outer door entrances were framed by a slightly larger front door opening with another wooden beam, similar to the buildings of the nuns' square. The unusually thick rear wall (2.5 to 3 meters) allowed early explorers to search for hidden treasures there in vain.

On the terrace next to the building is the stone figure of two fused jaguars, which represents a two-headed jaguar throne and served as a seat for the ruler.

The facade structure adheres to the rules of the late Uxmal style, but is particularly complex here. The base of the building consists of three elements, two smooth bands that frame a band that lies further inside, with alternating smooth surfaces and groups of four low pillars. The lower wall surface is smooth, it is limited at the top by the middle cornice, which is kept simple and consists of three elements: a smooth band, which is framed at the top and bottom by oppositely projecting bands with an oblique cross-section. At the corners, large, fully plastic snake heads protrude from the middle band.

View of the facade from the south

The upper wall surface bears all the decor of the governor's palace. The pictorial program is very complex and cannot be described in detail here. It consists of a multiple combination of the following elements: Step meander, that is, angular spirals with a lateral row of steps leading to the beginning of the spiral. These step meanders appear left and right oriented, in each case mirror images of each other. Between them there are fields with a diamond grid pattern.

The meandering steps are only apparently arranged in two horizontal registers (horizontal rows), in fact their height is less than half of the upper wall surface, so that there is still space above or below them. This space is occupied by a chain of Chaak masks, some of which are arranged horizontally, others at an incline like stairs.

Above the central entrance, apparently later attached in front of grid fields, there are eight horizontal smooth strips (similar to the eastern building of the nuns' square), on which flat snake heads sit at both ends. On the ribbons, as an extension of the snakeheads, there are higher ribbons, slightly set back, which are adorned with dummy hieroglyphs (characters that look like hieroglyphics, but do not correspond to real characters and therefore of course do not reflect any content).

A ninth row is barely recognizable in the horizontal row of masks at this point, but without the horizontal band that would have collided with the protruding noses of the masks. In the center of these ribbon snakes rises up a high feather headdress, under which the figure of a dignitary sitting on a throne almost disappears. The throne is fitted in a semicircular arch from which snake heads protrude on both sides.

The upper cornice is peculiarly designed: a narrow band runs over a sloping band, around which an equally narrow one winds alternately in front of and behind it. The upper end is formed by a high, protruding band. The narrow sides of the governor's palace have the same decoration of meandering steps and grid fields, the back only grid fields.

Turtle House (Casa de las Tortugas)

The turtle house, so called because of its decoration in the upper cornice, is a typical classical Puuc style building. It is located on the large terrace of the governor's palace a few meters north of the palace on a part of the large platform that was added later. A large staircase leads up to the platform from the north to the turtle house.

Turtle house

The floor plan of the building is clearly structured: On both narrow sides and the south side there are two rooms arranged one behind the other, the outer one has three entrances, the inner one one. The interior rooms are one step higher. On the north side there is only one entrance that leads to a single elongated room.

Turtle house with stairs to the platform

The facades have the usual structure: a simple cornice made of a high row of slightly shoed stones rises a smooth wall surface up to the height of the door beams, which were originally made of wood. The middle cornice consists of three elements: a smooth band in the middle and a band protruding upwards and a band protruding downwards and outwards. The upper wall surface has pillars, the upper cornice is similar to the middle one, with the protruding bands being higher. The turtles mentioned are sitting on the middle band. The quality of the construction is excellent; many details are reminiscent of the governor's palace. The collapsed central part of the building was reconstructed around 1968.

C-shaped building southeast of the Governor's Palace

As in most building complexes, there is a so-called C-shaped building on the platform of the Governor's Palace. The building near the governor's palace is the largest known building of this type, it has not been excavated, but is still easy to recognize as such, as it is almost not covered by rubble from a vault (which does not exist here).

Unexcavated C-shaped building at the Governor's Palace

The row of uncut stones on the back (in the picture on the right) comes from the bench running along the back wall and the low wall plinth, on which a wooden wall construction is likely to have been placed. Corresponding rubble is missing on the front: here the building was open, the roof to be assumed rested on wooden supports. The location of this C-shaped building is unusual. They are usually found in small groups or in pairs inside or in the middle of courtyards, while the building here tends to frame the platform in front of the governor's palace. This could - together with the building running at right angles to it, which is described as in the next section - indicate a different function or time.

Hypostyle hall east of the Governor's Palace

Opposite the governor's palace on the same large platform is an elongated, unexposed building, whose truncated pillars protruding from the rubble indicate a building similar to the south building of the bird plaza. It is believed that it was a portico with three rooms behind it. The upper facade seems to have been decorated with columns and ik elements.

Buildings north of the platform of the Governor's Palace

Buildings at the foot of the governor's platform

Close to the northern foot of the platform on which the governor's palace stands, a small building has been excavated and completely reconstructed, which stands out for its pillars made of stone blocks that divide the entrance. At a later date, the side entrances were closed by unclean masonry. A vaulted capstone was found in the rubble of the interior, which is unusually well preserved (it was replaced by a replica in the reconstruction).

Older buildings west of the Governor's Palace

Halfway up the large platform of the governor's palace there is a wide ledge on which two buildings stand, which were later enclosed by the platform and partially covered over. They are therefore to be classified earlier than the erection of the platform and the turtle house standing on it in the immediate vicinity. The landing can be reached via a wide staircase from the courtyard in front of the main pyramid.

The southern of the two buildings consists of two rows of three rooms each facing east-west, of which the middle one, of which only small remains have been preserved from the slightly protruding front wall, had a facade design in the Chenes style.

The north building also has two rows of three rooms with entrances facing west. According to the remains of the facade on the back, it is a building in the classic pillar style.

Ball court (Juego de Pelota)

Large ball playground from the south

The ball playground is located between the platforms of the nuns' square in the north and the governor's palace in the south, it is oriented roughly north-south. As with all late classical ball courts, it is formed from two massive wall blocks, between which the play alley (34 meters × 10 meters) runs between low benches, in which the actual game took place. The side wall blocks, which are 7.4 meters high, mainly served as the reflex wall from which the ball hitting them was directed back into the game alley. The reflective walls were kept smooth accordingly.

Ball game ring (completed cast)

In the middle of each side there was a stone ring (of which only remnants have been preserved in Uxmal). The goal of the ball game was to hit the ball made of solid rubber through the ring, with the ball only being played with the hip. Both rings were provided with an only partially preserved inscription on which the (reconstructed) dates of (converted to the Julian calendar ) January 9, 905 are contained. The side benches had plastic rattlesnake bodies on their upper edge. On the upper surface of the two side wall blocks were buildings with tripartite entrances to which stairs led up from the outside. These buildings are largely destroyed.

Pyramid of the Wizard (Pirámide del Adivino)

The ruined zone of Uxmal is dominated by the Pyramid of the Magician, a pyramid with a rectangular floor plan, the corners of which are spaciously rounded. The body of the pyramid is clad with roughly worked stones, the cladding that is visible today is to a large extent the result of work to stabilize the structure. At least five construction phases can be distinguished on the pyramid. The traditional designation of the individual components as “temple” says nothing about their actual function.

Temple I.

The oldest component is an originally independent building that forms the eastern boundary of the Vogelhof - but the perimeter development did not yet fully exist at that time. The so-called Temple I is a typical building in the classic Puuc style, which consists of two parallel rows of 5 rooms each, the rear (eastern) row being accessible through the rooms in the western row. There was a transverse room at each end. The middle entrance later came to lie under the western staircase and is no longer visible today.

Temple I - filled rooms
Frieze with hieroglyphics and a relief scene

Some of the rooms were probably filled with rubble stone masonry when the last phase of the pyramid was being erected for reasons of stability. The doors had door beams made of two wooden beams each, which are only preserved in one place. Radiocarbon dates from one of the bars to 740–760 AD (laboratory number Hei 15505, confidence interval 1 sigma, corresponds to a 68% probability that the tree's felling date falls within the specified period). At the corners there are inserted thick corner pillars.

The design of the facade consists of a base of three elements: between two smooth bands, a series of low pillars, which alternate with smooth surfaces, extend around the entire building. The lower wall surface is smooth, made of well-cut facing stones. Between the doors and the doors and corners there are three fields with three columns each, which extend over the entire height of the lower wall. The column fields of the wall do not correspond to those of the base.

The middle cornice is unusually strong and decorated in various ways. It consists of oversized monolithic elements, the front side of which protrudes downwards and outwards. The lower edge is decorated with simply stepped cone-like elements in the form of the "ik" symbol (similar to a "T" with three bars of equal length), the front side has figural motifs, tendrils, fish, braided ribbons, crossed long bones and a few short ones in bas-relief Hieroglyphic texts. Above this lowest element there is a continuous row of cranked columns, and above it another band that is reminiscent of flat columns with regular incisions around their circumference.

Trunk masks above the central entrance below the (later) stairs, no longer visible today

The upper wall surface is smooth, but above the entrances it has been broken up by large Chaac masks with their characteristic trunks, placed one on top of the other. Above the central entrance, perfectly preserved under the later staircase, was the fully sculpted representation of Reina de Uxmal (Queen of Uxmal), actually the partially tattooed face of a priest emerging from the jaws of a stylized snake. This figure was removed during the restoration work. Above that there are two large, perfectly preserved trunk masks, which have not been visible since the last restoration because the passage was closed for reasons of stability. The upper cornice is no longer preserved in its original form; the elements found in the rubble suggest a design similar to that of the middle cornice.

Temple II

The first section of the actual pyramid was built in the second construction phase. It has its center a little east of the rear facade of the first building, which it partially covered, and reached a height of 22 meters. For reasons of stability, the rear rooms were partially filled with stone masonry. This first pyramid carried an east-facing building on its platform, consisting of a portico supported by 8 columns (the number is hypothetical, as the excavation inside the later pyramid did not reach the ends of the building).

This building was accessed from the east via a wide staircase. At a later point in time, the elongated room of the portico was divided into three rooms by two transverse walls, each enclosing one of the columns, which were then given the shape of entrances, each supported by two columns. The facade on the sides of the row of columns is smooth. A roof ridge rose above the back wall of the building, but it may also have belonged to Temple III, and which can be seen through an opening in the floor of Temple V that was created during the excavations.

Temple III

Remains of the stairs to Temple III to the right of the later stairs to Temple IV, below Temple I
Temple IV, entrance and facade from the west

A small building, made up of two rooms one behind the other and facing west, was later added to the back wall of this building (Temple III), to which a staircase, only visible in traces, led. The rear half of the front room and the rear half were bricked up at a later date in order to increase the stability of Temple V above. The temple was completely covered by later buildings, it can only be reached through a modern tunnel from the middle of the east staircase.

The facade of this building has a two-part middle cornice and a three-part upper cornice, in keeping with what is common in the Puuc style. From the inwardly inclined upper half of the wall and the upper cornice protrude stone pegs to attach a stucco decoration that is no longer preserved.

Temple IV

The so-called Chenes building was erected around and above Temple III and extending it to the front, to which a staircase leads from the Vogel Plaza, which goes over the facade of the lowest building and partially covers it. The access to the middle room of Temple I was left free through an arched passage (it is bricked up today). To reduce weight, a vault was also built over the roof of Temple I, which had no other function. The stairs have a continuous chain of masks of the rain god Chaac at their edges.

The building surprises with a facade and an entrance in the style of the Chenes Dragon's mouth entrances, which are actually native to the Chenes and Río Bec area. The interior is very high, the beginning of the vault is over 4 meters high. The entrance was supported by two wooden beams.

Temple V

The youngest and highest building with three narrow rooms facing north-south is located directly above Temple II on the level of the upper end of the roof ridge (which is visible through a trap door after excavations). A new, steeper staircase was built on the east side, which completely covered Temple II, as well as two stairs on the west side that lead past the Chenes building. The building is remarkable because it faces the two main sides of the pyramid with the two stairs at the same time. The middle room has its door entrance to the west, the two rooms at the northern and southern ends have entrances to the east, which initially lead to a narrow platform, which is reached via the wide staircase in the middle.

Temple V, west facade

The facade on the west side stands on a plinth with two smooth bands framing a recessed band of pillars. The lower wall surface consists of two fields on both sides of the single entrance with serrated stones (chimez) placed diagonally across , in the middle of each of which a fully plastic stone figure was attached, of which only remnants have survived . Laterally, the wall surfaces are smooth.

Temple V, east facade

The central cornice consists of a smooth protruding band framed by two outwardly projecting bands. The upper wall surface has four individually standing meanders, in front of which a rectangular peg protrudes from the wall, which presumably carried a figure. The upper cornice is designed the same as the middle one, only slightly higher.

The facade on the east side has significantly less ornamentation. The lower half of the wall is smooth and separated from the upper half by the usual three-band cornice. Because of the severe destruction, not much can be said about the upper wall surface: in the extension of the center line of the east staircase, there is a three-dimensional image of a traditional house with a palm leaf roof.

Climbing the pyramid, which was affected by a hurricane , is no longer permitted for reasons of stability. Only the lowest building is accessible to visitors.

Bird Square (Plaza de los Pájaros)

The courtyard is between the magician's pyramid and the nuns' square. The name comes from the facade decor of the southeast building, which shows birds. The courtyard is bordered by four buildings. Except for the building in the east, apart from a small remnant of the western building, they had completely collapsed and were reconstructed from 1988 to 1994. In the middle of the courtyard is a conical altar stone. The sequence in which the buildings were erected is reconstructed as follows: First the eastern building was erected on an early platform, then the northern and southern buildings, and finally the two parts of the western building. Finally, the two middle rooms were placed in front of the facade of the west building.

West building

West building with reconstructed passage

To the west is a complex building with an arched passage in the middle (at least that's how it was reconstructed). The northern and southern halves of the building are laid out in the same way: three rooms each with simple entrances. The facade corresponds to the classic Puuc style. The base consists of a simple row of stones, the lower wall surfaces are smooth.

South extension of the west building
Facade of the extension with stone birds on the upper wall surface, which represents a palm leaf roof

The middle cornice consists of three sections: a downward-outward protruding band, above it an uninterrupted row of low pillars and a third, smooth band. The upper half of the wall is made up of pillars with a stone-imitation bond in the middle. The upper cornice consists of four elements: from below a smooth band, a deeper band of low columns, again a smooth band, and above it the usual end of tall stones protruding diagonally upwards and outwards.

At a later moment, an extension was placed in front of the central rooms. The extensions have three entrances, which were originally spanned with wooden door beams. 22 small inscription elements were found in the rubble of these entrances, but they contain no legible text, only pseudo-hieroglyphs.

The middle cornice of the facade consists of three elements like the older part of the building, but they are decorated differently. The lower, protruding band mimics the ends of palm leaves, the middle shows the '' chimez '' pattern, which is interpreted differently and perhaps represents the rattles of rattlesnakes . The third element merges into the upper wall surface, which depicts the rows of palm leaves of the traditional roof covering. Several stone birds are placed on top of these, which gave the building and the courtyard its name.

The top ends with the upper cornice, which is similar to that of the older building, except that the top row of stones again shows a palm leaf relief. At the corners protrudes from the row of columns, a stone, wide open reptile throat. The side entrances to the protruding room, but also some others, were made narrower in later times, apparently to make the buildings, which originally served more representative purposes, more usable for residential purposes. The facade design in the area of ​​the arched passage is unknown and could not be deduced from elements in the rubble, which justifies doubts about the reconstruction.

North, south and east buildings

Vogelplatz, south building
Vogelplatz, north building

The north building consists of two rows of rooms one behind the other, parallel to the facade. Three entrances each led to the two side rooms. Later the side of these entrances were walled up. The middle entrance has three pillars. The reconstruction of the facade is hypothetical and based on the usual design of facades, taking into account the elements found in the rubble.

The southern building is formed by a long portico supported by 13 columns, behind which there are three rooms in the same direction. In the portico, near the passage to the middle rear room, there is a bricked seating platform. The reconstruction of the facade is hypothetical. Numerous stone pegs were recovered from the rubble of the completely collapsed building, so that the assumption is justified that the upper wall surface was smooth and protruded from it (although hardly as randomly distributed and protruding as far as in the reconstruction) should provide support for deep decor made of plastic stucco.

To the east of the courtyard is the elongated lower building of Temple I of the Wizard's Pyramid, which is described in the section on the pyramid.

House of the Iguana (Casa de la Iguana)

House of the iguana

The building is located south of the Vogelplaza and consists of an elongated portico, which is supported on its west side by 11 columns. The building had completely collapsed and was completely reconstructed. Therefore, no reliable statements can be made about its facade and other details.

Nunnery (Cuadrángulo de las Monjas)

The four now fully reconstructed palace buildings of the nunnery square are located around a sunken, rectangular courtyard. The main access is from the south, where the badly damaged ball court is located outside the square, via a wide staircase and a gate passage through the southern building. The architecture of the nuns' square best represents the late Uxmal variant of the Puuc style . Two painted vaulted ceilings from the complex of the nuns' square bear data for the years 906 and 907 and thus form the last reliably legible data to be preserved in the entire Puuc region.

South building

Courtyard side of the south building; in the passage the gate of the turtle house

The south building is at the level of the inner courtyard. It consists of two identical, mirror-inverted elongated buildings (80 meters), the main part of which has two rows of four rooms each, which are open to the inner courtyard and the outside (north and south). The buildings are connected by an archway that allows access to the inner courtyard from the large south-facing staircase. This is the only monumentally and representatively designed entrance to the entire complex. At the outer ends of the two parts of the building there are two small, two-room buildings set back, which are only accessible from the inner courtyard and were built later.

Detail of the interior facade

The upper half of the wall shows two related motifs: On the inward-facing facade, above each of the entrances, there is a depiction of a hut with a palm leaf roof with masks of the rain god, from which smoke or clouds rise. The areas between the huts are decorated with latticework and smooth surfaces with groups of three columns with a central binding.

The facade on the outside has largely fallen off, and the remains near the western corner show that it was designed similar to the facade on the inside. The middle and upper cornices are structurally the same: two sloping bands frame a smooth, protruding one. The upper cornice is significantly higher.

East building

East building
Central entrance of the east building

The eastern and western buildings are raised by several steps opposite the courtyard. The building has 14 interior rooms laid out in a complex floor plan. In principle, there are two identically designed parallel rows of 7 rooms, which, however, only correspond to 5 entrances to the outside (or into the front rooms), because a side room leads off from the front and rear central room on each side. The two central rooms are larger than any other.

The back and the narrow sides are kept relatively simple: above a completely smooth lower wall surface, the upper wall surfaces show an alternation of equally smooth surfaces and fields with a grid pattern. Quadruple cascades of Chaac masks can be seen at the corners. The front shows a dilemma: Because of the large central room with its side chambers, the distance between the central entrance and the side entrances is very large. In order not to transfer this imbalance to the facade decor, the upper wall surface was divided into seven sections of almost the same length: six, of which the two outer sections correspond to the entrances, and two above the smooth wall section on both sides of the central entrance show an identical motif of parallel double-headed snakes (increasing in length from bottom to top), from the center of which protrudes an owl face with large feathers, which is mostly missing today. Three Chaac masks are arranged one above the other above the central entrance. There the upper cornice is interrupted and replaced by three parallel lines, very similar to those above the other entrances.

The base consists of three elements, the middle with alternating groups of four low pillars and smooth surfaces is framed by two smooth bands. The middle cornice consists of four elements, a band consisting of a continuous sequence of low pillars framed by two smooth bands, and above it a diagonally protruding band. The upper cornice is almost identical, with the uppermost band being very high. In front of the column ribbon there are stone rosettes at intervals.

West building

West building - Monjas, inner facade

The building in the west of the courtyard has seven entrances, each of which leads into a room and from this into one behind. In this respect, the floor plan is the least demanding of the nuns' square. The entrances have a characteristic of the late Uxmal style: around the actual entrance there is an entrance that is larger in height and width and forms a frame.

Snake head with face

The facade facing the courtyard is the most complex of the nuns' square. In the upper wall surface (the lower one is smooth) it shows the most complex pictorial program of the nun's square. A throne with an oversized spring canopy is located above the central entrance. On the throne sits a very small figure of a dignitary, apparently of advanced age. The background is made up of precious feathers. Two snake bodies, twisted again and again into each other, which are covered with feathers and seem to suggest the idea of ​​the Quetzalcoatl or Kukulkan, emerge from this central image. They frame and structure the rest of the facade.

The same motif can be found above the neighboring entrances, but obviously with less importance. Then at the ends of the cascades of masks of Chaac follow and finally the motifs of the house with palm leaf roof and Chaac mask, which are already known from the south building. At the corners are the usual stacked Chaac masks. In the fields between the entrances, backgrounds with grid patterns and chimez motifs alternate, in front of which human and animal figures protrude fully. Most noticeable near the second entrance from the north are a head and a rattling end of the huge snakes. A human face peeks out of the open snake mouth. It is believed that these snakes were later added to the already completed facade.

The three-part cornices are simple, with no special decorative elements, apart from rosettes that protrude at intervals from the middle band of the upper frieze. The rear of the building has been largely destroyed and has not yet been reconstructed. It showed alternating lattice patterns and step meanders in two registers.

North building

North building with porches and monumental stairs

The north building stands on a particularly high platform that is very wide in front of the south-facing main facade. A 30-meter-wide staircase leads to it in the middle of the courtyard, bounded on both sides by a building on the same level as the courtyard. These buildings are designed identically but different in size: They consist of two rooms, the front of which is open to the courtyard through a portico. The difference lies in the number of brick pillars in the portico: four in the western building, only two in the eastern one.

Western porch
Façade above the three central entrances of the western porch

Only the facade of the western building has been preserved: A smooth wall surface follows a three-part base with a drawn-in central band in which columns with smooth surfaces alternate. The pillars are equipped with a base and capital and, like these, have a relief. The middle cornice is four-part, with a sloping band at the bottom, two smooth bands and above again a sloping band in opposite directions. The upper wall surface is dominated by the crossed grid of Chimez stones, into which smaller fields with a meander-like motif are inserted above each of the partial entrances. The corners wear simple Chaac masks. The upper wall area is relatively low because the height of the building was limited by the level of the platform in front of the actual north building. The upper cornice is tripartite with smooth ribbons sloping above and below, with rosettes protruding from the middle ribbon at intervals.

The actual north building consists of two rows of eleven rooms, the rear row being accessible only through the front rooms. On the two narrow sides there are also two rooms one behind the other, so that the total number of rooms is 26 with 13 outside entrances. The north facade has no entrances. The middle entrance on the south facade is wider than any other. As with the east and west buildings, the entrances are designed in the frame shape described.

The building has a more complex history than the others in the nuns' square: the oldest building did not have the four side rooms. The older building had a different facade, which was demolished and nothing is known about its decorative content (during the reconstruction work on the north facade, a view of the lower wall surface and the middle cornice of the older facade was left free). The side rooms were then added in a further construction phase. Finally, the entire building was sheathed with a new facade. In this form, the north building is the youngest of the nuns' square.

Nuns square, older facade at the back

The picture program combines motifs from the facades of the other parts of the nuns' square. The base consists of a band with alternating smooth parts and groups of three columns, framed by two smooth bands. The lower wall surface is smooth everywhere. The middle cornice is also kept simple and consists of three elements, the middle of which is a smooth band, accompanied by sloping bands at the top and bottom. Outstanding and structuring elements are the high cascades of Chaac masks, which together with the similarly designed corner cascades protrude considerably above the roof surface. Their original number is uncertain, as the facade was only partially well preserved.

Representation of a house with a palm leaf roof, two double-headed snakes in the ridge

Above some of the entrances there are depictions of traditional Mayan houses, the ridge of which is formed by double-headed snakes of various shapes. A comparison with the clouds of smoke from the hearth fire that emerge from the depictions of the houses in the south building suggests a symbolic equation. In front of one of these houses there is a three-dimensional representation of two jaguars, whose tails are twisted into one another, a motif that can be found similarly in other places in Uxmal. Between the cascades and the houses, inclined Chimez stones in two registers alternate around central rhombuses with large meandering steps. In these fields there are figures protruding from the facade surface, such as the (incomplete) one of a bound prisoner and that of an owl with a human face. A high, quadruple cascade of Chaac masks is installed above every second entrance. The design of the facades on the narrow sides of the north building is not known, apart from the corner cascades.

The back of the building is simpler. In regular succession, smooth surfaces alternate with those with an inclined grid. In all smooth surfaces, stone pedestals protruded from the wall above the central cornice, on which in one case part of a male figure with bared genitals has been preserved. At the height of the head of these figures, the facade has a precisely worked round hole in which - as is assumed for various similarly designed monuments in the wider region - a skull of a dead man was inserted instead of the head made of stone. The upper cornice of the entire building basically consists of three sections: two smooth bands that frame a continuous row of low pillars. The obliquely protruding band usually located above it is so excessive that it actually has to be referred to as a separate wall surface, especially since the inclined position is hardly developed.

Annex building

Connecting arch of the two wings

The two elongated buildings known as annexes run parallel to the eastern building of the nuns' square and a little to the east. These are two identical buildings that were originally separated by a narrow passage, which (similar to the Governor's Palace) was later closed and covered with a vault. The similarity of the two buildings hides the building history: the southern building was erected first, followed by the northern one, in connection with its construction the connecting arch to the southern building was built, which was later made impassable by a transverse wall and transformed into a semi-open interior, similar to the case with the two connecting arches at the governor's palace.

The two buildings are laid out identically, they consist of two unusually long rooms. The front of the rooms could be entered through three entrances, which were separated by wall panels, a simple entrance leads to the rear. The quality of the construction is extremely high, which can also be seen in the very large span of the vaults. In the rear room of the northern building it is 4.1 meters, in the southern room even 4.35 meters, which is probably the largest span of a room in the entire Maya region.

Also noteworthy is the construction of the outer walls of the southern building, which does not consist of a core of bulk masonry and non-load-bearing cladding stones, as is usually the case, but of massive stone blocks that extend over the entire width of the wall and are almost set in a stretcher bond . The characteristic facing stones are missing, as are the door posts made of several stone blocks. It seems to have been an experiment that can only be found (but carried out with less quality) in Building 6 of the northern group, but was not otherwise pursued.


The wall surfaces are smooth, from the upper half of the wall of the southern building, which is only partially preserved on the back, numerous tenons or bases for decorative elements made of stone or stucco protrude, of which no traces have been preserved. The three friezes each had three elements. The middle frieze shows a protruding smooth band and two oblique bands above and below. The upper frieze is designed the same but higher.

Time position

From the peculiar masonry that also appears in a building in the northern group, one can deduce that the two buildings were erected almost simultaneously. The northern group is believed to have originated early in the history of Uxmal. The annex building should be dated similarly early because the passage only made sense as long as the Monjas complex did not exist. Since the construction of the Monjuas complex meant that the passage only led to the high rear platform wall of the Monjas east building, it could be walled up without any disadvantage. The interior painting, which has been preserved in small remnants in the corners, also suggests an early date. It consists of a deep red painting of the wall surfaces of the vault and the lower wall parts, with a horizontal band of large black hieroglyphics on a light background running under the approach of the vault. This is a hallmark of Proto-Puuc and early Puuc buildings, but where this band is preferably to be found on the outer wall. The highly fragmentary preservation completely rules out reading.

Main pyramid (Pirámide Mayor)

Main pyramid from the magician's pyramid, foreground: turtle house, background right: pigeon house

The Uxmal pyramid, the largest by its volume, near the rear of the Governor's Palace, is an isolated building with an approximately square floor plan with a side length of 80 meters. Originally it was created as a pyramid with a building on the upper platform, to which a wide staircase led up on the north side. This building had five rooms in the back row and three in front. The three middle rooms in the back row were accessed through the upstream rooms via the trunk of an oversized Chaac mask. The rooms were already filled with rubble masonry for reasons of stability, only the central front room was cleared of rubble when it was exposed. There was only one room on the three remaining sides.

Facade detail of the main pyramid

The facade was very richly decorated. On the north side, the entire lower wall surface was designed with three rows of meandering steps, which are separated by narrow depictions of intertwined snakes. Depictions of parrots in bas-relief are arranged between the individual meandering steps . Nothing has been preserved from the upper half of the wall. The corners of this building are formed by three stacked Chaac masks.

The facades on the other side are only known from small-scale exploration excavations from 1941. There, this time in the upper half of the wall, large meanders with a pattern of diagonally placed crosses alternate. The lower half of the wall is undecorated there. The central cornice consists of a smooth central band and above and below sloping stone slabs sloping outwards. In a later phase, the pyramid was raised to the level of the building roof and the facades on all four sides were covered and all rooms were filled. This and other indications suggest that a large building was planned on the new surface, but that it was not implemented.

The first excavations were carried out in 1941. The grand staircase and the northern facade were uncovered and reconstructed around 1969. During maintenance measures in connection with the renewal of the facilities for the light and sound show, an older facade was discovered on the north side in 2009, which is assigned to the Early Classic. This older facade was closed again for reasons of stability.

The complex of the pigeon house

Pigeon house from the south pyramid

This complex of several large buildings is the westernmost of the center of Uxmal. It is very badly damaged, extensive reconstruction work carried out on the northernmost (deepest) part since 2000 gives an approximate impression of the former appearance. In terms of the quality and type of stone processing, the complex is likely to belong to a relatively early phase in the building history of Uxmal and has undergone several renovations.

It is divided into four large courtyards, which are in front of the "southern pyramid" in the north. The northernmost courtyard is made up of three long buildings, only the north side of the courtyard is undeveloped except for a low platform. The two buildings on the east and west sides of the courtyard are badly damaged, they had two rows of rooms that opened on both sides. Only the southern building, which was also largely destroyed, consists of a single row of rooms and its back wall leans against the terrace in the south. This terrace was reached from the courtyard via a staircase that spanned the facade of the building in the middle, but left a passage to the central room.

The free space formed by the terrace is relatively narrow and is not bounded on its sides by long buildings, rather there is a direct transition to the terrace at the foot of the main pyramid on the east side. In the south, this terrace borders another one on which the pigeon house is located.

Pigeon House (Edificio de las Palomas)

Pigeon house, north side

The so-called “pigeon house” because of the large number of slot-shaped openings in the roof ridge consists of two parallel rows of rooms, which are not completely symmetrical: the south side has fewer rooms than the north side. In the middle there is an arched passage that connects to the next (southern) courtyard.

View through the arch of the pigeon house onto the bricked-up arch of the south building and the south pyramid

The well-preserved ridge, which consists of two horizontal registers, rests on the thicker rear wall of the two rows of rooms, which is also the central wall of the building. The lower register consists of a smooth wall surface, which is broken up by upright rectangular "windows". The upper register is divided into triangular, gable-like sectors, which probably had seven rows of low "windows". The function of all these windows is to reduce wind resistance.

In the middle of each of these gables, in the lowest row of “windows”, there is a smooth surface with a protruding pin on which there was a figure, but which has never been preserved. Tenons for attaching figures or ornaments made of stucco are also distributed over the remaining area of ​​the roof ridge. No statements can be made about the facade of the building, as the front walls on both sides have not been preserved.

The south pyramid

South pyramid from main pyramid

Another courtyard adjoins the pigeon house to the south. In addition to the pigeon house in the north, it had buildings on its west and south sides, of which only small traces are visible, while in the east it was bordered by the main pyramid. The building on the west side of the courtyard had a simple facade with columns in the cornices and the upper wall surface. The south building originally had two rows of rooms on both sides and a passage in the middle, so its floor plan largely corresponded to the pigeon house. In contrast, a roof ridge does not seem to have been present. At a later time, the passage from the south was blocked by a terrace that reached up to the roof height of the building. The rooms, which were no longer accessible as a result, were filled with rubble and a staircase was built over the passage that led to the terrace.

On this terrace stands the south pyramid, which dominates the entire complex. A long flight of stairs led up to the platform at its top. The temple building, of which two remains of vaulted rooms have been preserved, was, like the pyramid itself, relatively narrow, it had three rooms in a row and another, much narrower one behind the central room, a floor plan that was based on the Chenes located far to the south. Region refers. The walls are relatively thick and some of them are clad with unusually large stones. The front wall reached higher than the roof level and probably formed a roof ridge. On the south side of the pyramid was a number of rooms that can only be seen in traces. The entire complex has not yet been excavated or archaeologically examined.

Grupo del Cementerio

Cementerio group (west building and north pyramid)
Cementerio west building

It is one of the typical courtyard complexes of Uxmal. The buildings that bordered it on three sides stood on high platforms. The southern building was probably interrupted in the middle by an arched passage to which a staircase led from the south. Opposite this entrance is the pyramid, which is significantly higher than the other platforms, had a staircase on the south side and on the surface of which there was a building made up of one room.

West building

Only some of the buildings on the west side of the courtyard have survived. In the middle there is an elongated building with originally three entrances from the courtyard. There is a wide entrance platform in front of the larger central entrance. The entrances lead into a long, undivided room. The two side entrances were closed with masonry made of secondary stone, but of poor structural quality. There is also an entrance on the south side, a rather rare element in the architecture of the region. The entrances originally had wooden door beams, but in modern times these have been replaced by concrete door beams.

The facade of the building shows the characteristics of the early Puuc architecture: the middle cornice above the doors consists of two elements, a band with a downwardly projecting profile and a smooth band above. The upper cornice also consists of a smooth band and above it the high, upwardly protruding end stones. This cornice is interrupted over the central entrance and corners. There are stone cones protruding from the facade, which must have been held by larger-than-life figures (made of stucco?). On the roof there is a still partially preserved ridge, a narrow wall with openings that was probably covered with stucco figures.

The two buildings on the side were less than half the size of the central one and also had three entrances. The north of these buildings has collapsed completely, the south wall is the back wall. The remaining components show that the two side buildings had the same facade design as the central building.


Cementerio, altar platform
Cementerio, altar platform

In the courtyard there are three (presumably originally four) low platforms with decorations with crossed long bones and skulls and shields on the outer walls. The iconography is likely to suggest battles between the rulers of Uxmal, which were celebrated in these monuments.

Three of the platforms have long bands with hieroglyphic inscriptions above the decoration described, but their dates cannot be classified. In one piece of text, in connection with the mention of a "star war", a name sign can be found that refers to the region of Xcalumkin .

Round pyramid (Pirámide Circular)

Interior of the round pyramid

In the western part of Uxmal, a low, round pyramid was excavated in the 1990s. It is actually a round building on a stepped round platform about 18 meters in diameter and almost 2.5 meters high, with an entrance from the north to which a poorly preserved staircase leads. The building had an outer wall with a maximum height of 1 meter, on which a wall and roof construction made of perishable material must have stood. Intense traces of fire show that the building was destroyed by fire. Later, like many other ruins in the Puuc area, valuable offerings were laid in the rubble of the building. The comparison with similar constructions in other places and the construction shows that the round pyramid was erected very late in the history of Uxmal and that it is related to the numerous C-shaped buildings, one of which was built directly onto it.

House of the Old Woman (Casa de la Vieja)

About 80 meters southeast of the platform of the governor's palace is the previously unexposed and reconstructed complex, which consists of a pyramid and several buildings. The pyramid, which once had a staircase on its west side, had a platform on its top with a presumably larger building, which perhaps consisted of two rows of three rooms each. A more precise statement on this is impossible because no excavations have taken place so far and because at least the middle and southern part of the building did not go beyond low walls and was never completed.

Halfway up the pyramid on its northwest flank is the actual "House of the Old Woman", which belongs to the early Puuc style and is therefore one of the oldest surviving buildings. It would appear that this building is on its own smaller pyramid, older than the large one behind it. The building, the northern half of which collapsed, had two rooms one behind the other, which could be entered through an entrance in the west. The outer and inner doors were covered with wooden beams. The roof ridge, which is still partially preserved, is remarkable, with numerous protruding pegs for attaching stucco figures on the front side (to the west). Presumably, a second roof surface was constructed for the ridge, which is around 14 cm above the first. It is not possible to decide whether this was a technically required work step or whether the roof ridge was put on later.

Building 14N2

Building 14N2 with original Zapote wooden beams
Back with phallus-shaped gargoyle

Immediately north of the Pyramid of the Old Woman, on the same low terrace, is a largely destroyed building consisting of a building with three rooms. On the quarry stone core attached to the back there is a second floor with a single room, to which a staircase leads from the west, spanning the facade of the ground floor. From the passage below the stairs along the facade, the entrance leads to the middle room. The wooden beam spanning the entrance is still in place.

Phallus Temple (Templo de los Falos)

This building is located around 450 meters south of the governor's palace, access is via a forest path that begins at the “House of the Old Woman”. The path crosses several severely crumbling, small groups of buildings. The phallic temple, named after the phallic-shaped gargoyles in the upper cornice, is located on the southern edge of a large, stepped platform.

No consolidations have taken place so far. The building should originally have consisted of five rooms facing north, towards the center of Uxmal. Behind the middle room is another room, a building plan that is characteristic of the Chenes region. Only part of the rear wall has been preserved, including that of the additional room.

The facade of the rear wall has smooth wall surfaces, the middle and the upper cornice are kept identical, and have a smooth middle band, above and below obliquely outwardly directed bands. The eponymous phallus is embedded in the upper band of the upper cornice, which was able to drain water from the roof surface through a channel on the upper side.

Inaccessible buildings

Chimez Temple (Chanchimez)

The temple, named after a detail of its decoration, is located exactly 400 meters south-southwest of the governor's palace, already outside the wall belt in dense forest. No excavation work or consolidation has taken place on the building. The building is located on the southern edge of a large platform, which presumably had an elongated building on the north side with a passage in the middle, which was reached from the center of Uxmal via a wide staircase.

It is a not entirely symmetrical building with a total of 10 rooms, which is arranged around a massive block of stone material on three sides. The main page with 6 rooms faces north, towards the center of Uxmal, three rooms to the west and two to the east. One of the rooms on the front has no entrance from the outside, but through the room next to it.

North facade with meander steps, passage under the stairs to the upper floor
Northern group seen from the Adivino

A staircase leads over the facade to the roof level, on which there is a building with a long portico and three rooms behind, which has been largely destroyed. Under the stairs, an arched passage leading along the facade gives access to the middle room on the ground floor. The entrance door has a well-preserved chicozapote wood door beam that is still in function.

The facade of the first floor is partially preserved and completely reconstructable. The base consists of three elements, of which the high central one shows an uninterrupted braided ribbon motif. The stones of the upper band are also in relief. The lower wall surface shows large meanders between which vertical rows of squares standing on top run. The central cornice has three bands, of which the lower one protrudes obliquely downwards and outwards and the slightly recessed central one consists of alternately inclined toothed stones, which are called chimez (millipedes) because of their shape .

The top band is smooth. The upper wall surface consists of columns that have the educational motif twice. The upper cornice consists of four elements: a downwardly and outwardly sloping band, which is formed here from two rows of stones, a recessed row of low pillars, a repetition of the lower element, but consisting only of one row of stones, and the outward and sloping cantilever stones at the top.

Only the base cornice of the heavily damaged upper floor is known, the middle element of which is made up of low columns that stand in groups of three. There was a roof ridge on the central wall of the building on the upper floor. The back of the complex was not used. In front of the building there is a large terrace in front of the building, which compensates for the terrain rising slightly to the south.

Northern group (Grupo Norte)

The northern group is located 200 meters north-northwest of the nuns' square on an elevated terrain. It is easy to see from the main road that passes Uxmal. More than a dozen mostly badly damaged buildings are arranged around at least three courtyards. In terms of construction and floor plans, it is one of the oldest surviving parts of Uxmal. So far, no excavations or consolidations have been carried out in the northern group. The group is currently not officially open to visitors.


Stele 17 in front of the north staircase in the nuns' square

Amazing for the size and obvious importance of Uxmal is the small number of surviving inscriptions that contain a clearly expressed date. These were built exclusively under the rule of the only known ruler of Uxmal, Chaak, just like the majority of the grandiose buildings. Uxmal does not contain any data in the absolutely precise Long Count , the data are either expressed as a calendar round, or as the end of a period of the Long Count, without, however, completely and thus clearly designating it.

The ability to read or correctly write hieroglyphic inscriptions was apparently already severely limited in this region and at that time. This explains the execution of a series of pseudo-hieroglyphs in Uxmal in the Vogelviereck (as well as in other places outside Uxmal), which should give the impression of an inscription (to the also mostly non-literate viewers in ancient times), but are clearly illegible.

About half a dozen other steles, all of which are gathered on the stelae platform (west of the nuns' square), which are not open to the public, as well as some other monuments more or less clearly bear dates in Ajaw style, which refer to the name of a K'atun (calendar cycle from approx . 20 years duration). They fall in the period from 810 to 928. The steles are so badly eroded that the mostly short non-calendar texts are no longer legible, the other monuments only have one symbol that is interpreted as a calendar. Vaulted ceilings are not sculpted, but painted, whereby the painting is often peeled off on the thin stucco substrate.

monument Gregor. date Long count Calendar round End of period
Cementerio Monument 3 11.10.831 / 7.10.844 [] / [] 1 kawak / k'an 11 K'ank'in 5 ajaw (Y)
Stele 17 4.2.896 [] [3 ajaw 13 sec] 6 do in k'atun 12 ajaw
Ball court ring north side January 14, 905 [] 2 ix 16 Pop (Y)
Ball court ring south side January 15, 905 [] 3 men 17 pop (Y)
Monjas Ost vaulted capstone 4.10.906 [] 5 imix 18 K'ank'in (Y)
Monja's Annex vaulted ceilings 8/10/907 [3/10/18/9/12] 4 eb 5 Keh

Y = date in the Yucatec method of calculation, which differs from the standard form by one day. Values ​​in square brackets are calculated as well as the equivalents in the Gregorian calendar. Slashes separate alternative readings and calculations of indistinctly preserved inscriptions.

See also


  • Jeff Karl Kowalski: The House of the Governor. A Maya palace at Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico . University of Oklahoma Press, Norman 1987, ISBN 0-8061-2035-5 .
  • Frank Leinen: Jean Frédéric Waldeck's research trip to Uxmal and the insurmountability of cultural distance. In: Teresa Pinheiro, Natascha Ueckmann (Ed.): Globalization avant la lettre. Travel literature from the 16th to the 21st century. LIT Verlag, Münster 2005, ISBN 3-8258-8749-9 , pp. 91-114.
  • HED Pollock : The Puuc. An architectural survey of the hill country of Yucatan and northern Campeche, Mexico . Peabody Museums of Archeology and Ethnology, Cambridge, Mass. 1980, ISBN 0-87365-693-8 .
  • Eduard Seler : The ruins of Uxmal . (= Treatises of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences, Philosophical-Historical Class , No. 3). Verlag der Königl. Academy of Sciences, Berlin 1917

Web links

Commons : Uxmal  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Jeff Karl Kowalski: Collaboration and Conflict: An interpretation of the relationship between Uxmal and Chichén Itzá during the Terminal Classic / Early Classic Periods. In: Hanns J. Prem (ed.): Escondido en la selva, arqueología en el norte de Yucatán . México, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia 2003, ISBN 970-35-0052-8 , pp. 235-272.
  2. ^ A b Antje Gunsenheimer : En contra del olvido y en pro de la continuidad: las crónicas de los Libros de Chilam Balam en su contexto colonial. In: Hanns J. Prem (ed.): Escondido en la selva, arqueología en el norte de Yucatán . México, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia 2003, ISBN 970-35-0052-8 , pp. 371-416.
  3. ^ Antonio de Ciudad Real: Tratado cuirioso y docto de las grandezas de Nueva España. ed. v. Josefina García Quintana, Victor M. Castillo Farreras. México, UNAM 1976. Volume 2, pp. 358-362.
  4. Federico de Waldeck: Viaje pintoresco y arqueológico a la Provincia de Yucatán, 1834 y 1836. Translator: Manuel Mestre Ghigiliazza. Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, México 1996, ISBN 968-29-8734-2 .
  5. John L. Stephens: In the Mayan Cities. Travels and discoveries in Central America and Mexico 1839–1842 . Du Mont, Cologne 1980, ISBN 3-7701-1215-6 .
  6. ^ Keith F. Davis: Désiré Charnay. Expeditionary photographer . University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque 1981, ISBN 0-8263-0592-X .
  7. ^ Peter E. Palmquist, Thomas R. Kailbourn: Friedrichsthal, Baron Emanuel von. In: Peter E. Palmquist, Thomas R. Kailbourn: Pioneer Photographers of the Far West: A Biographical Dictionary, 1840-1865 . Stanford University Press, Stanford 2000, ISBN 0-8047-3883-1 , p. 252.
  8. ^ Teobert painter: Península Yucatán (ed. By Hanns J. Prem). Gebr. Mann, Berlin 1997.
  9. ^ William H. Holmes: Archaeological Studies among the Ancient Cities of Mexico, Part 2: Monuments of Yucatan . Chicago, Field Museum 1895-97
  10. Eduard Seler: The ruins of Uxmal. (= Treatises of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences, Philosophical-Historical Class. No. 3). Verlag der Königl. Academy of Sciences, Berlin 1917.
  11. Robert L. Brunhouse: Sylvanus G. Morley and the World of the Ancient Maya . University of Oklahoma Press, Norman 1971, ISBN 0-8061-0961-0 , pp. 33-35.
  12. ^ Federico E. Mariscal: Estudios arquitectónicos de las ruinas mayas - Yucatan y Campeche . Mexico, Secretaría de Educación Pública 1928.
  13. ^ Frans Blom: Short summary of recent explorations in the ruins of Uxmal. In: Negotiations of the XXIV. International Americanist Congress Hamburg, 1930, pp. 55–59.
  14. ^ Ignacio Marquina: Arquitectura prehispánica. México, INAH 1950, pp. 762-791.
  15. a b c H. ED Pollock : The Puuc. An architectural survey of the hill country of Yucatan and northern Campeche, Mexico . Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology, Cambridge MA 1980, ISBN 0-87365-693-8 .
  16. ^ Alfredo Barrera Rubio: Guia Oficial: Uxmal . México, INAH-Salvat, 1985, ISBN 968-32-0350-7 , p. 23.
  17. George F. Andrews: Maya cities: placemaking and urbanization. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman 1975, ISBN 0-8061-1187-9 , pp. 286-321.
  18. ^ Jeff Karl Kowalski: The House of the Governor. A Maya palace at Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico . University of Oklahoma Press, Norman 1987, ISBN 0-8061-2035-5 .
  19. ^ Alfredo Barrera Rubio: La gran plataforma del Palacio del Governador de Uxmal. In: Cuadernos de arquitectura mesoamericana 12 (1991) pp 41-56.
  20. ^ Jeff Karl Kowalski et al: Archaeological excavations of a round temple at Uxmal: summary discussion and implications for Northern Maya culture history. In: Eighth Palenque Round Table, 1993, ed. v. Martha J. Macri, Jan McHargue. San Francisco, PARI 1996, pp. 281-296.
  21. ^ Ian Graham: Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions. Volume 4 (2); Volume 4 (3) together with Eric van Euw. Harvard University, Cambridge 1992-1993.
  22. Jeff Kowalski, Cynthia Kristan-Graham: Chichén Itzá, Tula, and Tollan: Changing perspectives on a recurring problem in Mesoamerican archeology and art history. In: Jeff Kowalski, Cynthia Kristan-Graham (Eds.): Twin Tollan: Chichén Itzá, Tula, and the epiclassic to early postclassic Mesoamerican world. Dumbarton Oaks, Washington 2007, ISBN 978-0-88402-323-4 , pp. 36-41.
  23. Edward B. Kurjack: Political Geogryphy of the Yucatecan hill country. In: Hanns J. Prem (Ed.): Hidden among the hills, Maya archeology of the Northwestern Yucatan Peninsula . Möckmühl, Flemming 1994, pp. 308-315.
  24. International Register of Cultural Property under Special Protection. UNESCO, July 23, 2015, accessed June 2, 2016 .
  25. José Huchim Herrera, Lourdes Toscano Hernández: El Cuadrángulo de los Pájaros de Uxmal. In: Arqueología Mexicana Volume VII, No. 37, 1999, ISSN  0188-8218 , pp. 18-23.
  26. ^ Hanns J. Prem: Un escenario del Clásico Terminal in Yucatán. In: Wiltrud Dressler et al. (Ed.): Culturas en Movimiento. Universidad Autónoma de México, México 2007, ISBN 978-970-32-4452-2 , pp. 131-161.
  27. INAH press release from February 9, 2009 ( Memento from February 21, 2013 in the web archive archive.today ) (Spanish)
  28. a b Nikolai Grube: Hieroglyphic inscription from Northwest Yuvcatán: an update of recent research. In: Hanns J. Prem (ed.): Escondido en la selva, arqueología en el norte de Yucatán . México, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia 2003, ISBN 970-35-0052-8 , pp. 339-370.
  29. ^ A b Daniel Graña Behrens. The Mayan inscriptions from northwest Yucatan, Mexico. Suedwestdeutscher Verlag für Hochschulschriften, 2009, ISBN 978-3-8381-0716-5 .
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on February 22, 2010 in this version .