Uxmal: Wikis


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Pre-Hispanic Town of Uxmal*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Adivino (Pyramid of the Magician) at the entrance to Uxmal
State Party  Mexico
Type Cultural
Criteria i, ii, iii
Reference 791
Region** Latin America and the Caribbean
Inscription history
Inscription 1996  (20th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

Uxmal (Yucatec Maya: Óoxmáal) is a large pre-Columbian ruined city of the Maya civilization in the state of Yucatán, Mexico. It is 78 km south of Mérida, Yucatán, or 110 km from that city on Highway 261 towards Campeche, Campeche), 15 km south-southeast of the town of Muna and in the municipality of Santa Elena.

Uxmal is pronounced "Oosh-mahl".[1] The place name is Pre-Columbian and it is usually assumed to be an archaic Maya language phrase meaning "Built Three Times", although some scholars of the Maya language dispute this derivation.


Ancient history

Map of accessible parts of Uxmal

While much work has been done at the popular tourist destination of Uxmal to consolidate and restore buildings, little in the way of serious archeological excavation and research has been done; therefore, the city's dates of occupation are unknown and the estimated population (about 25,000 people) is at present only a very rough guess subject to change upon better data. Most of the architecture visible today was built between about 700 and 1100.

Maya chronicles say that Uxmal was founded about 500 A.D. by Hun Uitzil Chac Tutul Xiu. For generations Uxmal was ruled over by the Xiu family, was the most powerful site in western Yucatan, and for a while in alliance with Chichen Itza dominated all of the northern Maya area. Sometime after about 1200 no new major construction seems to have been made at Uxmal, possibly related to the fall of Uxmal's ally Chichen Itza and the shift of power in Yucatan to Mayapan. The Xiu moved their capital to Maní, and the population of Uxmal declined.

Panorama of Uxmal
Magician pyramid, section
Detail of the eastern building of the Nunnery Quadrangle, with Adivino pyramid showing behind.
Detail of the Nunnery Quadrangle, showing the mosaic-like works on the buildings.
La Gran Pirámide (The Great Pyramid) at Uxmal
Detail of "Nunnery Quadrangle" façade as drawn by Catherwood

After the Spanish conquest of Yucatán (in which the Xiu allied themselves with the Spanish), early colonial documents suggest that Uxmal was still an inhabited place of some importance into the 1550s, but no Spanish town was built here and Uxmal was soon after largely abandoned.

Description of the site

Even before the restoration work Uxmal was in better condition than many other Maya sites thanks to being unusually well built. Much was built with well-cut stones set into a core of concrete not relying on plaster to hold the building together. The Maya architecture here is considered matched only by that of Palenque in elegance and beauty. The Puuc style of Maya architecture predominates. Thanks to its good state of preservation, it is one of the few Maya cities where the casual visitor can get a good idea of how the entire ceremonial center looked in ancient times.

Some of the more noteworthy buildings include:

  • The Governor's Palace, a long low building atop a huge platform, with the longest façades in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.
  • The Adivino (a.k.a. the Pyramid of the Magician or the Pyramid of the Dwarf), is a stepped pyramid structure, unusual among Maya structures in that its layers' outlines are oval or elliptical in shape, instead of the more common rectilinear plan. It was a common practice in Mesoamerica to build new temple pyramids atop older ones, but here a newer pyramid was built centered slightly to the east of the older pyramid, so that on the west side the temple atop the old pyramid is preserved, with the newer temple above it. The structure features in one of the best-known tales of Yucatec Maya folklore, "el enano del Uxmal" (the dwarf of Uxmal), which is also the basis for the structure's common name. Multiple versions of this tale are recorded, and the story was further popularised after one of these was recounted by John Lloyd Stephens in his influential 1841 book, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan. In the version told to Stephens in 1840, the pyramid was magically built overnight during a series of challenges issued to a dwarf by the gobernador (ruler or king) of Uxmal, as part of a competing trial of strength and magic against the king orchestrated by the dwarf's mother (a bruja, or witch).[2]
  • The Nunnery Quadrangle (a nickname given to it by the Spanish; it was a government palace) is the finest of Uxmal's several fine quadrangles of long buildings with elaborately carved façades on both the inside and outside faces.
  • A large Ballcourt for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame, which an inscription there informs us was dedicated in 901 by the ruler Chan Chak K'ak'nal Ajaw, also known as Lord Chac before the decipherment of his corresponding name glyphs.

A number of other temple-pyramids, quadrangles, and other monuments, some of significant size, and in varying states of preservation, are also at Uxmal. These include North Long Building, House of the Birds, House of the Turtles, Grand Pyramid, House of the Doves, and South Temple.

The majority of hieroglyphic inscriptions were on a series of stone stelae unusually grouped together on a single platform. The stelae depict the ancient rulers of the city, and they show signs that they were deliberately broken and toppled in antiquity; some were re-erected and repaired. A further suggestion of possible war or battle is found in the remains of a wall which encircled most of the central ceremonial center.

A large raised stone pedestrian causeway links Uxmal with the site of Kabah, some 18 km to the south. Archaeological research at the small island site of Uaymil, located to the west on the Gulf coast, may have served as a port for Uxmal and provided the site access to the circum-peninsular trade network.

Modern history of the ruins

The site, located not far from Mérida beside a road to Campeche, has attracted many visitors since the time of Mexico's independence. The first detailed account of the ruins was published by Jean Frederic Waldeck in 1838. John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood made two extended visits to Uxmal in the early 1840s, with architect/draftsman Catherwood reportedly making so many plans and drawings that they could be used to construct a duplicate of the ancient city (unfortunately most of the drawings are lost).) Désiré Charnay took a series of photographs of Uxmal in 1860. Some three years later Empress Carlota of Mexico visited Uxmal; in preparation for her visit local authorities had some statues and architectural elements depicting phallic themes removed from the ancient façades.

Sylvanus G. Morley made a map of the site in 1909 which included some previously overlooked buildings. The Mexican government's first project to consolidate some of the structures from risk of collapse or further decay came in 1927. In 1930 Frans Blom led a Tulane University expedition to the site which included making plaster casts of the façades of the "Nunnery Quadrangle"; using these casts a replica of the Quadrangle was constructed and displayed at the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago, Illinois. Unfortunately, the plaster replicas of the architecture were destroyed following the fair, but some of the plaster casts of Uxmal's monuments are still kept at Tulane's Middle American Research Institute. In 1936 a further Mexican government repair and consolidation program was begun under José Erosa Peniche.

Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom visited on 27 February 1975 for the inauguration of the site's sound & light show; when the presentation reached the point where the sound system played the Maya prayer to Chaac, a sudden torrential downpour fell upon the gathered dignitaries, despite the fact that it was the middle of the dry season.

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

See also


  1. ^ Lonely Planet, "Introducing Uxmal", http://www.lonelyplanet.com/mexico/yucatan-peninsula/uxmal (accessed 28 Oct 2009)
  2. ^ Stephens (1841, vol. II pp.423–425)


Dunning, Nicholas P. (2006). "Long twilight or new dawn? Transformation of Maya civilization in the Puuc region". in Nikolai Grube (ed.). Maya: Divine Kings of the Rain Forest. Eva Eggebrecht and Matthias Seidel (assistant eds.). Cologne, Germany: Könemann. pp. 323–337. ISBN 978-3-8331-1957-6. OCLC 71165439.  
Schele, Linda; and David Freidel (1992). A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya (pbk reprint ed.). New York: Harper Perennial. ISBN 0-688-11204-8. OCLC 145324300.  
Stephens, John L. (1841). Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan. in 2 vols.. Frederick Catherwood (illus.). New York: Harper & Brothers. OCLC 863468.  

External links

Coordinates: 20°21′34″N 89°46′17″W / 20.35944°N 89.77139°W / 20.35944; -89.77139


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

The Pyramid of the Magician at Uxmal
The Pyramid of the Magician at Uxmal

Uxmal is an archeological site in the state of Yucatan in Mexico, and a UNESCO World Heritage List site.


Uxmal (OOSH-mahl) means "built three times" in the Mayan language. As a World Heritage site, it is one of the best restored and maintained ruins in the Yucatan. Its architecture, some of the most dramatic of the Yucatan ruins, is characterized by low horizontal palaces set around courtyards, decorated with rich sculptural elements and details.


Uxmal was the greatest metropolitan and religious center in the Puuc hills in the late classical period. It thrived between the 7th and 10th century A.D. and its numerous architectural styles reflect a number of building phases.

Recent studies have suggested that Uxmal was the capital of a regional state that developed in the Puuc region between 850 to 950 AD. Other evidence suggests that Uxmal collaborated politically and economically with Chichen Itza, the popular ruin located between Merida and Cancun.

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Adivino (diviner) pyramid

Get in

Uxmal is located about 50 miles south-west of Merida, and will take a few hours to explore thoroughly. There is a small museum at the entrance, as well as a snack bar, gift shops, restrooms and various local vendors. Be sure to bring a hat, some sunscreen and good walking shoes. A camera is probably a good idea as well, as the buildings at Uxmal are very photogenic. The site is open every day to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Organized tours are also available from a variety of companies.


Entrance fee : $85 pesos (about $8 USD)


The most impressive structure and the tallest at 100 feet, is the House of the Magician which you will find just beyond the entrance. According to ancient legend, this pyramid was built by Itzamna in one night. It actually appears to have been built in five phases, and it was situated so that its western stairway faces the setting sun at summer solstice. Note as of October 2009, tourists are no longer permitted to climb the House of the Magician.

The Nunnery, another large building on the site, was named by the Spaniards as it reminded them of a European nunnery. It was probably used as a school for training healers, astrologers, shamans and priests.

The Governor's Palace is an excellent example of stone mosaic work probably created by hundreds of masons and sculptors. It occupies five acres and contains many beautiful sculptures of the rain god Chaac, serpents and astrological symbols.

Other buildings at Uxmal include the House of Turtles, decorated with turtle sculptures associated at that time with rain, the Dovecote, a building with many separate chambers, the House of the Old Woman, and more. Uxmal also has a large ballcourt, enclosing a playing field that is 110 feet long and 32 feet wide.

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Nunnery Quadrangle


Uxmal offers a rich architecture of the Puuc Style, a city full of palaces, temples and a unique pyramid "El Adivino". INAH offers nightly a "Light and Sound Show" that is far more interesting than the one offered at Chichen Itza.

  • Tour the ruins of Uxmal Yucatan Trails can book you a tour to the ruins ruins, leaving at 9 am and returning around 5 pm. This trip includes a guided tour in English, lunch, and transportation. You can also see these beautiful ruins in a different light with an evening light and sound show.



[Add 17% to room rate for taxes

The Lodge at Uxmal: $177-$205 in the low season (May-Oct), $360-$441 in the high season(Mar-Apr)

Hacienda Uxmal: $148-218 (Mar-Oct)

Mision Uxmal Park Inn Hotel: $90-$113 (Feb-Dec 19)

Villas Uxmal Club Med: $80-$140 (all year)

  • Labna is another, smaller archaeological site nearby, with some distinctive features; if you drive, take the road to Mani, a truly lovely Mayan village that offers great food.
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Simple English

[[File:|thumb|right|Panorama of Uxmal]]Uxmal is a large pre-Columbian city. The ruins are in Mexico today, in the state of Yucatán. According to the records of the Maya, the city was built around the year 500 AD. According to current research, about 25.000 people lived there. Most of the buildings that can be seen today were built between 700 and 1100. After 1200, there seems to be no new construction. The ruling family moved their capital elsewhere, and the population of the city declined.

According to the documents of the Spanish conquerors, the city still had some importance in the 1550s. It was probably abandoned soon afterwards, as the Spanish built no city nearby.


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