Monday, December 19, 2011

The Year of the Maya

"Chac Mool" at Merida Anthropology Museum

Well, at the risk of sounding egocentric, as if that ever bothered me, this was my year of the Maya. Earlier this year I went to Guatemala and Honduras, where I saw the sites at Tikal and Copan. This time, in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, I visited the ruins at Tulum and Uxmal, fairly close to Merida.

I skipped the more famous Chichen Itza, because I'd heard it was always mobbed with tour buses from the beach resorts, and because, despite its UNESCO World Heritage designation, I'd heard that it would be a disappointment compared to Tikal. I have some friends who are completists when it comes to these things, but for me a few good examples will suffice. Uxmal is architecturally different from Chichen Itza, and a few people I met who had been to both felt that it's much more interesting, mainly for the detail on the buildings, which you don't get at Chichen Itza (and which, though striking, don't really compare with the carvings at Copan).

I went to Uxmal with a small tour group (there were seven of us) so I could see the light and sound show after dark (there's no public transportation back to Merida in the evening). When we arrived in the afternoon there were only a couple of other visitors at the site, a far cry from what I would experience in Tulum (and, I expect, what I would have experienced at Chichen Itza). The light and sound show was worthwhile for the way the lighting highlighted the detail on the structures. A photo doesn't do it justice, but nonetheless...

The photo at the top is of a Mayan sculpture at the small but impressive anthropological museum in Merida. The Chac Mool, a reclining figure, is a common icon of Mayan art. This one is from Chichen Itza.


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