My(an) Journey to Uxmal

by Murray Browne
When I tell anyone around here that I've been to one of the ancient Mayan cities in Mexico they quickly reply," Chichén Itza?" Then I have to half-apologize and answer, "Well, er no, Uxmal -- but Uxmal is equally impressive!" hoping they don't ask if I've ever been to Chichen Itzá.

I would imagine part of the Chichén Itzá's popularity can be attributed its geographic proximity to the beaches at Cancun and the noteriety of the legendary Castillo Pyramid. During the spring and fall equinoxes,  the sun casts a shadowy snake that descends down the north face of the Castillo in a kind of a precursor to our own Groundhog's Day, except that it has nothing to do with Bill Murray or the forecast of winter days ahead.

Located 80 km southwest of the Yucatán capital of Mérida, Uxmal was one of the great  cities of the Northern zone of the Mayan civilization. Founded about 200 B.C., Uxmal reached its zenith about 1000 A.D. with over 20,000 inhabitants. By the time the Spanairds arrived in the mid-16th century, the city had been abandoned for over a hundred years.

Magician Pyramid
uxmal view
The Magician's Pyramid. Did you know that at 35 meters in height, it is taller than the more famous Castillo (24 meters) of Chichén Itzá. View from the Great Pyramid. From the left, there is the Nunnery, the Magician's Pyramid and the Governor's Palace.
House of BIrds
The Nunnery. Because this courtyard has a dormitory look, the  Spaniards named it as if it were housing for the Catholic nuns. Actually, it was believed to be used as housing for aspiring Mayan magicians.   House of Birds. This building is across a courtyard from the Magician's Pyramid. Its name comes from the decorative birds perched in the mansard. 
house of tortoises
A view of the Nunnery through the House of Tortoises. The tortoise is a Mayan symbol representing  "crusty, slow moving old person." Professor Michael (Mike) Berry from University of Tennessee. The Universidad Autómata De Yucatán (UADY) in Mérida invited Dr. Berry to lecture on applied mathematics and search engines  during the week of March 7, 2004....My slides were breathtaking.
Created March 22, 2004
Photos by Murray Browne