Maya Civilization | Uxmal, Mexico

Uxmal (Oosh-mahl) is a Maya Civilization located in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, Uxmal’s art and architecture represent a pinnacle of the late Maya; as well as being one of the best maintained and restored archaeology sites in the Yucatan. At its time Uxmal was home to around 25,000 Maya and flourished around 600-1000 A.D.

Pyramid of the Magician

Maya Civilization | Uxmal Pyramid of the Magician Pyramid of the Dwarf

The Adivino | Pyramid of the Magician

The Pyramid of the Magician, also known as the Pyramid of the Dwarf, standing at 115 feet tall plays a part in the most popular Yucatan Maya folklore. This ancient tale says, 

“When a certain gong was to sound, the city of Uxmal was destined to fall to a boy “not born of woman”. The gong was struck, one day, by a dwarf that was born unto no mother, but rather hatched from an egg by a childless, old woman (according to a tourist guide in Uxmal, this egg was an iguana egg, and the woman a witch). The sound of the gong struck fear into the city’s ruler and the dwarf was ordered to be executed. The ruler reconsidered the death sentence, though, and promised that the dwarf’s life would be spared if he could perform three seemingly impossible tasks. One of the tasks was to build a massive pyramid, taller than any building in the city, in a single night. The dwarf ultimately completed all the tasks, including the construction of the pyramid. The dwarf was hailed as the new ruler of Uxmal and the structure was dedicated to him.” Uxmal Wiki

The Pyramid of the Magician is said to have been in 5 stages and consists of 5 superimposed pyramids; the oldest being the first pyramid to be built. After 1000 A.D. the site fell into disrepair before being found by Jean-Frederic Waldeck, restoration efforts started in the mid-19th century.

 The Nunnery Quadrangle

Maya Civilization | Uxmal Nunnery Quadrangle

The Nunnery Quadrangle

The Nunnery Quadrangle, which got its name from Spaniards who thought it resembled a nunnery, consists of 4 large rectangular buildings with 74 individual rooms. Nobody is sure what the nunnery was used for but assumptions include it being a school for astrologers, shaman, priests and healers as well as a palace or residence. All the faces and rooms of these buildings have elaborately carved designs representing the rain god Chaac, lattice work and serpents.

Maya Civilization | Uxmal Nunnery Quadrangle Chaac Serpent Lattice Carving

Detailed carvings of Chaac, serpents and lattice work in the Nunnery Quadrangle

The Ball Court

Maya Civilization | Uxmal Ball Court

Ball Court

The ball court is located just South of the Nunnery Quadrangle; the Maya had participated in this game for over 3000 years. The size of the ball court at Uxmal is considered large yet in comparison to Chichen Itza’s Great Ball Court it is rather small. Uxmal’s court measures 111 ft long x 33 ft wide. (Chichen Itza 545 ft long x 225 ft wide) The ancient ball game’s rules are largely unknown now a days but many believe the game consisted of players tossing a large rubber ball through a small stone ring on the side walls of the court. Easy enough, right? Wrong… they had to use their stomachs and hips, no hands were allowed. The game typically ended in the losing team losing their heads.

Maya Civilization | Uxmal Ball Court

Ball Court | Ball Game Ring

Governor’s Palace

Maya Civilization | Uxmal Governor's Palace

Governor’s Palace

The Governor’s Palace, an admired building by many for its finest example of Puuc style,  is located on a large terrace in the far south of the site. The Governor’s palace consists of three separate buildings, accessed by a grand stairway, all with a remarkably detailed facade. The Rain God Chaac’s face is carved over 100 times on the facade of these three buildings. The palace does not conform with the direction of the other buildings built at Uxmal, archaeoastronomers have come to realize the door of the palace is in line with the planet Venus.

The Great Pyramid

Maya Civilization | Uxmal The Great Pyramid

The Great Pyramid

The Great Pyramid, a nine level pyramid, is around 100 feet tall which makes it just slightly shorter than the Pyramid of the Magician. The Maya had started to deconstruct the pyramid, many believe they had planned to superimpose another structure on the current pyramid, but plans halted the deconstruction and the city became abandoned shortly after.

Maya Civilization | Uxmal Unrestored Temple

Unrestored Ruin (As seen from Great Pyramid)

The site of Uxmal still has many unrestored ruins throughout the jungles. It takes a large amount of resources (money, time, workers, etc.) to restore one ruin, hopefully they will be able to restore more as time goes by. The Great Pyramid gives a fantastic view of many unrestored ruins as well as incredible panoramic views of Uxmal.

Temple of the Iguana

Maya Civilization | Uxmal Temple of the Iguana Pyramid of the Magician

Temple of the Iguana | Pyramid of the Magician in back

The Temple of the Iguana is rarely mentioned, it’s truly a shame. The stones pillars along the front seem to be influenced by the Toltec people (seen at Chichen Itza as well).

Pictures around Uxmal

Maya Civilization | Uxmal Rain God Chaac face on Pyramid of Magician

A giant Chaac mask marks the entrance to the 4th temple … Chaac’s mouth is the door | Pyramid of the Magician

Maya Civilization | Uxmal Pyramid of the Magician Nunnery Quadrangle

Pyramid of the Magician from outside the Nunnery Quadrangle

Maya Civilization | Uxmal Chaac Carving Nunnery Quadrangle

Carving of the Rain God Chaac | Nunnery Quadrangle

Uxmal Sound & Light Show

Maya Civilization | Uxmal Sound and Light Show

Nunnery Quadrangle | Temple of the Magician in back

Every night at Uxmal there is a sound and light show in the Nunnery Quadrangle, the show comes in two languages, Spanish or English. (In order to listen in English you must purchase a headset, for an extra fee, when you enter the show in the evening.)

The light and sound show you will watch is the same one that Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom watched in 1975 at Uxmal.

Maya Civilization | Uxmal Sound and Light Show

Nunnery Quadrangle | Serpent

Have you been to the astonishing ruins of Uxmal?  What did you think?

Thank you for stopping by and reading, please leave a comment below! :)

— Dawn Kealing <3

References: Uxmal Wikipedia – Uxmal Britiannica

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8 Responses to “Maya Civilization | Uxmal, Mexico”

  1. katie featherstone May 7, 2014 at 9:21 am #

    Wow, it sounds amazing. I love some of the photos you’ve taken of the smaller details. Such interesting architecture!

    • dawnkealing May 7, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

      Uxmal is a ruin site you must not miss! It was extremely surprising that hardly anyone was there when we visited because it truly is a site of beauty and unbelievable architecture!

      Thanks for stopping by Katie. :) Have you been to any Maya sites?

  2. Rana Singh December 29, 2014 at 1:58 am #

    Great Article and amazing photographs loved it.
    Thanx for sharing and Happy New Year.
    Keep up the good work.

    • dawnkealing January 4, 2015 at 12:42 pm #

      Thanks so much Rana, it truly means a lot! I hope your holidays were amazing, happy new year & happy travels! :)

  3. steve jones April 6, 2015 at 10:19 am #

    Of all the Mayan sites I have visited – This is my favorite. The combination of the restored and un restored structures, the size and the crazy light show in the middle of the Jungle is great. For anyone interested in Maya, this site should not be missed. For anyone interested in something different, this is the place.

    • dawnkealing April 13, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

      This was definitely one of my favorite Mayan sites I visited as well! When I was able to visit we were almost the only ones around which was quite shocking because this site is absolutely amazing! I loved all the iguanas and the jungle that reached out as far as your eye could see while stand upon the pyramids. :)

  4. Edith Rodriguez July 27, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    Thanks for sharing these great pictures and information! Next time we go to Cancun we hope to visit Uxmal and Coba. They seem like great places.

    • dawnkealing July 27, 2015 at 12:36 pm #

      Thanks so much Edith! :) I am completely obsessed with visiting all of the ruin sites through Central America. I hope you get the chance to see Uxmal and Coba, if you haven’t already been, I highly recommend Tulum in Playa Del Carmen and Chichen Itza which is between Uxmal and Cancun! They’re all breathtaking, I promise! :)

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