zaterdag 24 mei 2014

Mexico, Pre-Hispanic Town of Uxmal

The Mayan town of Uxmal, in Yucatán, was founded c. A.D. 700 and had some 25,000 inhabitants. The layout of the buildings, which date from between 700 and 1000, reveals a knowledge of astronomy. The Pyramid of the Soothsayer, as the Spaniards called it, dominates the ceremonial centre, which has well-designed buildings decorated with a profusion of symbolic motifs and sculptures depicting Chaac, the god of rain. The ceremonial sites of Uxmal, Kabah, Labna and Sayil are considered the high points of Mayan art and architecture.


The ruins of the ceremonial structures at Uxmal represent the pinnacle of late Mayan art and architecture in their design, layout and ornamentation, and the complex of Uxmal and its three related towns of Kabáh, Labná and Sayil admirably demonstrate the social and economic structure of late Mayan society.
Uxmal forms the centre of the Puuc region in the south-western part of the State of Yucatán. The archaeological investigations and radiocarbon dating suggest that the main structures in the complex were built between AD 700 and 1000. The earliest settlement in the area was around 800 BC (pre-Classic Maya period), but its main development and eventual disappearance was in the Late Classic period (AD 650-1000), notable for the communications and movements between different regions of Mesoamerica.
There are many small valleys in the Puuc region that permitted substantial farming activities; in the Spanish colonial period it was considered to be the 'granary of Yucatán', producing two crops a year, in the Mayan period this was the basis for trade and the exchange of ideas, and probably also people, with other parts of Mexico. This is well illustrated by the Puuc artistic tradition, the evolution of which also demonstrates the economic, political and religious development of Uxmal. A series of hydraulic works, such as reservoirs for storing water, dates from the first phase. The second phase was that of the great urban capitals of the theocratic states that dominated the south-west of Yucatán, of which Uxmal was among the most important.
The period between then and the arrival of the Spaniards was one of commercial states and kingdoms. It was a time of great prosperity, when other urban centres grew up and contested control of the region with Uxmal; the town wall reflects this situation. The Mayapán League broke up during the long war between Chichen Itza and Mayapán in 1441-1541. Uxmal was abandoned by its inhabitants and became no more than a place of pilgrimage until the Spanish conquest.
The main characteristic of Puuc architecture is the division of the facades of buildings into two horizontal elements. The lower of these is plain and composed of carefully dressed blocks broken only by doorways. The upper level, by contrast, is richly decorated with symbolic motifs in a strongly plastic style; the individual blocks make up a form of mosaic. There are sculptures over the doorways and at the corners of the upper level, almost invariably composed of representations of the head of Chaac, the rain god.
By virtue of its height and bulk, the Pirámide del Adivino dominates the ensemble, despite its location in a lower-lying part of the site. It is made up of five superimposed elements, two of them reached by monumental stairways on either side of the structure. It is from the Late Classic period and brings together several artistic traditions, including the Toltec of Central Mexico.
The Cadrángulo de las Monjas is situated on an artificial platform and reached by a stairway on the southern side leading to a monumental gateway. The principal building, on the north side of the complex, is the only one that is two-storeyed; it is also the highest of the four. The decoration is especially rich, and is recognized to be an outstanding example of Mayan abstract and geometric art.
The Palacio del Gobernador (Governor's Palace) is constructed on a levelled natural feature and consists of three elements joined by covered vaults, the highest in the Mayan region. The Casa de las Tortugas is located on the same terrace as the Governor's Palace. It is simple in design but the overall effect is harmonious. The upper storey is decorated only with a series of slender columns supporting a robust cornice decorated with sculptures of tortoises, each different. The ball court, despite its smaller dimension, is an Uxmal example of importance. In style and construction it can be dated to the same period as the Quadrangle of the Nuns.
The Southern Complex: Grande Pirámide and Southern Group This part of the site has not been extensively investigated. The nine-component structure known as the Great Pyramid is less striking than the Pyramid of the Soothsayer. Its upper temple, known as the Temple of the Parrots, has a richly decorated lower storey, unlike other buildings at Uxmal, and probably dates to the earliest phase of the town.
The 16th century Mayan history known as The Books of Chilam-Balam dates the foundation of Uxmal to the later 10th century, but archaeological investigations and radiocarbon dating suggest that the main structures in the complex were built between AD 700 and 1000. The earliest settlement In the area was around 800 BC (Pre-Classic Maya Period), but its main development and eventual disappearance was in the Late Classic Period (AD 65D-1000), notable for the communications and movements between different regions of Mesoamerica.
There are many small valleys in the Puuc region which permitted substantial farming activities; in the Spanish colonial period it was considered to be the "granary of Yucatan," producing two crops a year. In the Mayan period this was the basis for trade and the exchange of ideas, and probably also people, with other parts of Mexico. This is well illustrated by the Puuc artistic tradition, the evolution of which also demonstrates the economic, political, and religious development of Uxmal.
In the first phase, Uxmal was able to transform itself from a peasant town into a political and administrative centre. A series of hydraulic works, such as reservoirs for storing water, date from this phase. The second phase was that of the great urban capitals of the theocratic states that dominated the south-west of Yucatan, of which Uxmal was among the most important. lt was a period when great public buildings were constructed, and when the population of the town reached some 25,000 people.
The period between 1000 and the arrival of the Spaniards was that of commercial states and kingdoms. In fact, this lasted only two hundred years at Uxmal, since it was abandoned around 1200. The Yiu then settled there and formed the alliance known as the Mayapan League with the neighbouring towns of Chichen ltza and Mayapan. It was a period of great prosperity, when other urban centres grew up and contested control of the region with Uxmal; the town wall reflects this situation. The Mayapan League broke up during the long war between Chichen ltza and Mayapan in 1441-1541. Uxmal was abandoned by its inhabitants and became no more than a place of Pilgrimage until the conquest by the Spanish, who gave the surviving buildings their existing names, Which have little to do with their true functions.

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