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The Ruta Maya

The sites along the Ruta Maya (the Maya Route) of Yucatan manifest some of the most intricately designed facades you will find anywhere in the Maya world. This slide show includes Uxmal, Sayil and Labna which are major sites along the Ruta Maya.


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The Maya Route is located in the Puuc Region of Yucatan, Mexico. Uxmal is the major site located in this region where the principal pyramid, known as the Temple of the Magician, has an unusal oval shape. As with the names of many Maya archeological sites, the Spanish conquistadores gave these magnificient archeological sites the names that are used today. The name for Temple of the Magician, for example, was based upon a legend about a dwarf who was hatched from an egg by his sorcoress mother.


The Nunnery Quadrangle in Uxmal has some of the most beautiful facades carved from limestone that I have seen in the Maya world (first image of above slide show). Not surprisingly, it was a Spanish Franciscan Friar, Diego López de Colludo, who named this structure because the buildings reminded him of the religious convents in Spain.
The site of Sayil, on the other hand, was named by the Maya, but long after the site had been abandoned. Sayil means the place of the leaf cutter ants. No wonder, they were quite evident when I visited Sayil. The Palace at Sayil is an interesting and unique Maya building given its very prominent columns that reminds one of Greek and Roman architecture.

Labna was also named by the Maya and means "old house." The Palace at Labna has as very distinguishing features human heads emerging from a serpent (last two images of the above slide show). Images of serpents are ubiquitous throughout the Maya world and symbolize birth, change, and crawling though time. Besides these purely abstract meanings, the geometric diamond patterns of the rattlesnake's skin are everywhere to be seen in the Maya Route as they form the background pattern of many building facades. An extensive treatment of the meaning of the Crotalus Durissus rattlesnake in the Maya culture and archeology can be found in Why the Rattlesnake in Mayan Civilization, by Jose Diaz-Bolio, 1988 (may not be easily found in bookstores outside of Mexico but available at local bookstores in the Uxmal area).

If you decide to go anywhere near Merida, Yucatan, a trip to the Puuc Region is well worthwhile. We spent three entire days visiting the major sites of the Maya Route and enjoyed every minute. There is an excellent hotel just accross the street from the Uxmal site, The Hotel Mayaland.


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