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Uxmal in Mexico among most beautiful examples of Puuc architecture

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 30th, 2011
Catholic Online (

The Mayan site of Uxmal pronounced "oosh-mahl," which translates to "thrice built," is considered one of the most complex and beautiful expressions of Puuc architecture. It's not to be missed as a major highlight of any Yucatán vacation.

LOS ANGELES. CA (Catholic Online) - Puuc, which means "hilly country," is the name given to the hills nearby and the predominant style of ancient architecture found here. Puuc decoration found at Uxmal is characterized by elaborate horizontal stonework on upper levels. Uxmal is part of the "Puuc route" of Mayan sites, along with nearby Sayil, Kabah, Xlapak, and Labná.

The land surrounding Uxmal was occupied as early as 800 BC. The major building period took place when it was the capital of a Late Classic Mayan state around 850-925 AD. The site was abandoned around 1450, shortly before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors.
What to See

The main ruins of Uxmal cover about 150 acres. Uxmal occupies a grassy savannah surrounded by forest and its buildings were adapted to the varied elevations of the hilly landscape.

Among the many wondrous things to see there is the Pyramid of the Magician, the tallest structure at Uxmal. The pyramid is also known as the Pyramid of the Dwarf; both names derive from a legend about a magical dwarf who was hatched from an egg, grew to adulthood in a single day, and built this pyramid in one night. Actually, it was begun in the 6th century AD and regularly expanded through the 10th century.

The pyramid is unique among Mayan structures because of its rounded sides, height, and steepness, and the doorway on the side near the top.

The rich decoration on the doorway of "Temple 4," near the top, features 12 stylized masks. These are traditionally thought to represent the rain god Chac, but recent scholarship suggests they are actually "iconographic mountains," or witz. The structure at the very top, Temple 5, dates from about 1000 AD; its design may be inspired by the nearby Governor's Palace.
Getting There

If traveling by car, there are two routes to Uxmal from Merida: Highway 261 or State Highway 18. Remember, there's no gasoline available at Uxmal. Busses run from Merida to Uxmal, but to see the sound and light show, you should sign up for a guided tour in Merida.

If you choose to stay the night in Uxmal, an efficient plan is to arrive late in the day, buy a ticket to see the sound-and-light show that evening, then explore the ruins the next morning before it gets hot. Make sure that the ticket vendor knows your intentions and keep the ticket.

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