In this second part of the post on Uxmal I’ll focus on the archeological site itself, which is the second most visited site in Yucatan after Chichen Itza — and with good reason. It’s immensely impressive and gave me for the first time a clear sense of just why places like Uxmal deserve to be called cities. When one considers that the excavated structures at Uxmal represent only a fraction of the full city as it existed at the time of Uxmal’s apogee in Mayan history, it’s clear that such sites were on the same level as the major metropolitan centers in Central Mexico.
The history of Uxmal is long and has many twists and turns. Let’s start with some information from the Wikipedia page on the site (here):
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. The city’s dates of occupation are unknown and the estimated population (about 15,000 people) is a rough guess. Most of the city’s major construction took place while Uxmal was the capital of a Late Classic Maya state around 850-925 AD. After about 1000 AD, Toltec invaders took over, and most building ceased by 1100 AD.
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. It was the most powerful site in western Yucatán, 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 Yucatán to Mayapan. The Xiu moved their capital to Maní, and the population of Uxmal declined.
Uxmal was dominant from 875 to 900 CE. The site appears to have been the capital of a regional state in the Puuc region from 850-950 CE. The Maya dynasty expanded their dominion over their neighbors. This prominence did not last long, as the population dispersed around 1000 CE.
The site is administered by the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH) and is a major tourist destination with all that goes along with it — for example, vendors outside in the parking lot, cafes at the entrance facility, and guides you can hire. Entrance is not cheap — for the likes of your foreign self it’s about USD $23. Mexican nationals pay less and Yucatecans get an additional break. Parking is about $8. So it’s not a particularly cheap date, considering that other sites in the vicinity are on the order of $4 with no charge for parking and offer full access to the buildings, as I’ll describe in the post on the Ruta Puuc sites. But it’s worth the price because you have the opportunity to see a full-on Mayan city that looks like such and the tourist crowd is always far, far less than it is at Chichen Itza. So I slapped down the pesos knowing that this was the one time in my life I’ll be at Uxmal and it’s good value for my experience dollar.
Here are some pics of the site to get started: