paulfraser (paulfraser) wrote,

Worship the sun

Just before conceding defeat at the hands of Naomi's influenza, which has since been identified to me (in an unsubstantiated manner) as round 2 of the swine flu, we made for the ruins of Uxmal, another Puuc Mayan city. By now they all of these cities sound the same, though to be there they each have their own charms. This one was extremely large, and after several hours we still had not seen all the extant buildings before the bus was due to come (but of course it was late).

The stonework, of a beautiful orange stone that stood out strikingly against the clear blue sky, is extremely well preserved, with some almost perfectly preserved, cleared and restored plazas with Chaak sculptures often retaining their nose, intricate geometric lattice patterns still vibrant, inlaid sculptures of the serpent god still clear, and straight edges still straight. In the places where masonry has collapsed but has not been reclaimed by the trees, it gives an interesting account of the construction techniques employed: seemingly, build the cut stone of the outer walls up, dumping rubble in as you go. Many buildings retain their internal structure of rooms, though those not barricaded off are often full of that nasty black mould that plots the demise of your respiratory system. Of all the ruined cities we have visited, this one takes the least imagination to envision as populated by daily affairs; you don't need to mentally rebuild the buildings, you just need to add paint and some tents and market stalls.

And yet, there is daily life here. The site is swarming with iguanas, the behavior of which is itself fascinating. Very quickly, one notes that this species mates strongly, with one always encountering pairs: a female with a larger, bearded male. Where they bask, they all face the sun, seeming like a congregation worshiping its god. The effect is magnified by the setting.

The most famous and unique structure here is the Pyramid of the Sorcerer (and yay for invented names), unusual in that instead of many rectangular layers, it has only two layers, tapered and elliptical, below the temple structures. Thus, it is somewhat reminiscent of an up-ended old-fashioned bathtub.

A visit to Uxmal is of definite value when one is in the area.

As said above, after Uxmal we abandoned plans to push on to Valladolid and its cenotes, and returned whence we came, with my acquiescing to a stop over in hated Villahermosa to break up the trip. Naomi claimed Villahermosa was quite nice, but this is because, firstly, the humidity was down from when I was last there, but secondly, she stayed in the hotel and avoided the seething crapness of the place. To my despair, everything worth seeing I had already seen the last time, and the last remaining item of interest, a local museum, was closed. As I was told by workers sitting about with not much apparent interest in getting it open. When Nae recovered slightly, by which time I had the flu, we went to Parque La Venta and to a local African safari park – with tigers rather lions – and then we left, and went back to Mexico City. At least I saw manatees.
Tags: archaeology, mexico, yucatan peninsula
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