Uxmal is acclaimed to be the architectural masterpiece of Maya Civilization. The Great Pyramid, the palace of the Governors, the House of the Magical and the Nunnery Quadrangle are magnificent structures; and the extensive restoration work performed at this site gives visitors a spectacular experience of the scope and grandeur of this powerful city.
Uxmal achieved it greatest glory between 800 and 1000 AD, although is decline did not apparently come as consequence of the rise of CHICHEN ITZA to the east. The bulks of the structures we see today are multi-roomed, and are thought to be the homes of a large and powerful elite class.
Archeologists can only guess at how many thousands of peasants, living in the surrounding countryside, were commanded by these warrior-nobles. Exquisite carving, mosaics and other decorations typify many structures, which represent some of the finest of achievements of what is known as the Puuc architectural style.
Some very fine carved stelae have been discovered here, and the study of their inscriptions and those found on the buildings themselves has played an important role in the ongoing decoding of Maya writing.
Most Maya numbers, more than half of their alphabet, and many other important symbols, or glyphs, have now been deciphered by the experts, and the evidence from Uxmal has provided essential clues in solving this ancient mystery.
Paradoxically, not that much is known about the civilization here. Only one ruler, Lord Chac, has been specifically identified.
The people may have been less war-like than some of their cousins in other Maya City-states, as there are few of the monuments and inscriptions celebrating victory in battle that are so prevalent at other sites. Being reasonably close to the coast, Uxmal probably engaged in considerable trade; agriculture and perhaps salt production were other key industries.
The large ball-court tells us that sports and recreation – at least for the upper classes – were also part of life in Uxmal.
The buildings are heroic in scope and majesty, yet are covered with gorgeous, finely detailed art. The entire site is imbued with a rare power, as if the spirits of the Maya nobles remained on their land, whispering the epic secrets of their ancient world to the visitors of today.