Tag Archives: temples

Tikal – Yax Mutal

Mar 2 – Got up early this morning for the 90 minute ride to Tikal, the huge site of Mayan ruins in the rainforest that was discovered in the 1840s, and is still in the very early stages of being uncovered and restored – about 15% uncovered since work began in the 1950s.

The place was originally called Yax Mutal (Yosh Moo-TALL) by the folks who lived here, and pottery uncovered dates back to 1000 BCE. There is no waterway, so the complex includes 10 huge reservoirs to collect rainwater during the rainy season and distribute it to grow crops and sustain the 90,000 people who once lived here. By 900 CE, they were all gone, probable victims of drought and warfare.

Here is what a pyramid looks like before the archeologists start digging:

Here’s one in the process of being uncovered:

Our guide Luis shared his passion for the history of Yax Mutal with us. If he looks familiar, it’s because he appeared on Survivor: Guatemala – The Maya Empire, when an episode was shot near Tikal. I’ll have to look for the episode when I get home.

The howler monkeys made a huge racket up in the trees – if you didn’t know better you would swear it was the roar of a T Rex!

We also saw spider monkeys and a coatimundi.

The temples are laid out so they line up with the sun on the equinoxes and solstices. Very mathematically precise.

Below is the latest building uncovered. See how the stone is still white on the bottom where it’s just been exposed?

These are the altars and stiles thought to have been used for sacrifices. They are arranged in groups of nine.

From the top of Perdido Mundo (the lost world), you have a 360 degree view of other temples in the distance.

A face has been uncovered at the Temple of Masks. Can you see it?

Another carving – not sure what it represents:We befriended Sue from Bristol UK, who climbed up and down the pyramids with us.

Fascinating, very hot 🥵 , experience of a lifetime!

Monte Albán

Mar 8 – One of the many reasons to visit Oaxaca is its proximity to the ruins of Monte Albán, which was the largest city known in Mesoamerica, inhabited by up to 20,000 people, that thrived over a period from 500BCE to 1000CE. We took a taxi across town to catch the bus that drives up the mountain once an hour. You can explore at your leisure, then get back on a return bus when you’ve seen all there is to see.

Not much is known about the Zapotec and other peoples who used to live here, or why they abandoned their city. The site was known to archeologists in the 19th century, but excavation didn’t start until the 1930s. The work is still in progress:

The structures just looked like hills…

…until they started to dig and uncovered the bricks and stones beneath. This is the other side of the hill above:

Archaeologists have had a fine time guessing what the buildings were for, what type of religions may have been practiced, and the culture of the peoples who lived here. They uncovered monuments drawn with figures, called Danzantes, as the initial theory was that they depicted dancers due to their weird leg positions. Now the theory is that they represent captives being castrated and readied for sacrifice. What do you think?

There are other figures, wearing armor, carved upside down. These are believed to represent tribes that were conquered.

Still others were originally called the Swimmers, but are now believed to represent human sacrifices.

The buildings are huge. Here is a stairway up one of them. Look at how small the people are at the top. See Jim jogging up with his red backpack?

View from the top – see how tiny the people are on the far side of the plaza?

This was believed to be a stadium where some sort of ball game was played competitively.

There is also a museum that showed some of the neat stuff they found in the buildings:

If you go, bring a hat, drinking water and sunscreen – there is not much shade! Definitely a worthwhile way to spend a day!