Leaving the Nuns’ Quadrangle you move through another stunning feature of Uxmal, a tall triangular vaulted passageway, onto another wide, stepped terrace and down to the ball court. A ball court is common to all Mesoamerican cultures, with the players aiming to pass a solid rubber ball – unfeasibly – through one of two high stone circles, using only elbows, knees and hips. These games ranged from the innocuous to the macabre and ritualistic, depending on which culture, where human sacrifice was not uncommon, particularly for the losing side.
There’s not a lot of shade here at Uxmal, particularly when you’re no longer allowed to enter the covered temples and freely roam the entire site. The COVID restrictions imposed here are questionable if not ridiculous. When visitor numbers are low, why limit the site and block off whole areas? Social distancing is not a problem. And yet to charge such an inflated price (putting off potential visitors, locals at least). Hmmm. Not sure. Still… as the many iguanas stood stock still or scurried for cover… it was the mad dog Englishmen that roamed the site in the midday sun.
The Governor’s Palace is arguably the most spectacular structure at Uxmal, because of its truly magnificent stone carvings, elaborate decoration and awe-inspiring grandeur. No surprise then that placed right in front of the main colonnade and imposing triangular portico is the throne of the Two-Headed Jaguar, the seat of power for the chief lords of Uxmal. This spot has spine-chilling presence. I can only imagine the wonderous, jaw-dropping scenes this throne has witnessed over millennia. And again, no one around to obstruct these magnificent sights – no umbrella-led tour groups and no tannoy-wielding tour guides – nope, just us mad Englishmen (well, one Englishman and two Welshmen to be precise) in our broad-brimmed hats, sensible shoes and factor 50 sunscreen.
Just beside The Governor’s Palace is the Great Pyramid of Uxmal, a place that looks and feels like the location for, if not the inspiration for, ‘Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom’. It’s an imposing pyramid that rises 98 feet with a flat temple at the top called ‘The Temple of the Macaws’, with stone relief carvings of parrots in flight. Inaccessible to climb of course on this visit, it’s only in recent decades that this pyramid has been partially excavated, and, even today, only the front face of the pyramid has been restored, with the remaining sides still lost to the jungle. Standing in silence in front of this pyramid with only the bird song for company, you really do feel like you’ve stumbled upon the lost Mayan city that intrepid travellers first clapped eyes on in 1841.
#Uxmal #YucatanPyramids #MayanPyramids #MadDogsAndEnglishmen #MayanBallCourt
A digital re-creation of an ancient Mayan ball game
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