Thursday, January 15, 2015

it's a maya, maya, maya, maya world

Almost every day in Mexico is like a birthday.

But some days really are birthdays.  Mine was yesterday.  And, as Lesley Gore might have said: "It's my party/ I can ride if I want to."

And ride I did.  First, from Campeche to Edzná.  If you do not recognize the name "Edzná,"  do not feel bad.  Archaeology is a minor hobby of mine, and the name did not quickly pop to mind when Dan suggested we drive east to the site.  He and Patty had visited there twenty years ago.

I have heard people complain that each of Mexico's ancient cities look alike to them.  There is no doubt the cities bear some similarity.  After all, the mother cultures of the Olmecs and
Monte Albán provided the basis for all of the Mesoamerican cultures.

But there are huge differences in each city.  I discovered that in 2010 when Islagringo and I toured several Maya sites (la ruta puuc).

Edzná also proved to be a place unto itself.  The usual construction was there.  Massive temples surrounding an altar, such as the star attraction -- the Temple of Five Stories.  All oriented to the east to take advantage of the symbolic daily resurrection of the sun.

The city was inhabited as early as 600 BC, became a major city around 200 AD, and the Maya lived there through the 1400s.  Abandoning it for still unknown reasons.

What is not immediately apparent is that the entire temple complex (including the Temple of Five Stories) is built on a massive platform -- giving it a unified and elevated appearance.  The entire structure is nicknamed "The Acropolis."

Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to climb the temple.  As with many other archaeological sites in Mexico, the temple is now off limits. 

I can understand the reasoning.  Out-of-shape tourists are prone to injure or kill themselves on the steep stairs.

We climbed one of the smaller temples.  I have, in the past, attempted to show just how steep these stairs are.  Here is another go.

The details of these temples interest me most.  Such as these hieroglyphs.  Archaeologists can now decipher them.  One set has the date 652 AD, even though the temple itself includes construction from the 4th century AD until the 14th century.

Think about that.  The Maya started building the temple around the time Constantine stopped persecuting Christians in the Roman Empire and completed it around the time the Scots won their independence from England -- a period of almost a full millennium.

I was disappointed there were no guides available.  At the rear of the Temple of Five Stories are these odd curved structures.  I do not know if they are supposed to be reconstructions of the original design or if they are of modern design to prevent the rest of the reconstructed temple from collapsing.

What is original is the red color on the stone blocks.  At one point, the temple (like many Maya buildings) was painted a bright red.

To the north of the Acropolois is "The Small Acropolis."  One temple contains steps decorated with interesting motifs -- like this crouching jaguar.

My favorite, though is a recent and rare find in the Temple of Masks.  Rare because the masks are made of stucco -- a very fragile material -- that were preserved only because they were buried.

There are two masks.  The mask on the left of the temple represents the sun god at sunrise (its rebirth).  The mask on the right of the temple represents the sun god at sunset (its death).  This is sunrise.

No visit to a Maya site would be complete without a tip of the hat to an innovation I have long-believed was a product of Maya engineering -- the Maya arch.  I need to do a bit more research before I cede the innovation to Monte Albán.

If you have been following our subsidiary on Facebook, you will already know, I had two birthday celebrations today.

The first was a lunch on the beach of the Gulf of Mexico -- complete with Mexican birthday music.

The second was at a restaurant in Palenque -- where we will be spending our day today before heading off to -- someplace else.

What better way to celebrate a birthday than to have it bracketed by two Maya sites?  Thanks, Dan and Patty, for making it a special day.

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