Stone Glyph

Ek Balam "Black Jaguar" A Mayan political, commercial and religious center for centuries.

Ek Balam Archaeological Mayan Ruins Yucatan Mexico Ek Balam Black Jaguar The Acropolis or La Torre on the Yucatan Peninsula A Mayan Ruin archaeological site Ek Balam Ballcourt Mayan Ruins Yucatan Mexico

Small Stone Glyph A Journey Back In Time

The ancient city of Ek Balam (“Black Jaguar”), like Chichén Itzá, is about two hours from Soliman bay. It is inland from Tulum, about 20 minutes north of Valladolid. Because it is a recent excavation, facilities are sparse, but not missing. There is one restroom. You’ll want to bring along your own food and water.

The site is older than Chichén Itzá and much more recently discovered. Though ruins were known to exist in the area for some time, it wasn’t until the late 1980’s that archeologists began to realize that something important might be buried in the jungle foliage. Excavation began in earnest in 1994 and is still going on.

You enter the city walking on the remnants of a Mayan raised roadway or sacbes, through a double wall, and on to the entry arch. Though reconstructed, the arch looks as old as the rest of Ek Balam and it welcomes you inside. (See photo below.)

Evidence shows that Ek Balam was a very important political, commercial and religious center for centuries. Current archaeological evidence shows that the site was inhabited from perhaps 100 B.C. until the time of the Spanish conquest. It was probably at its height as a city and cultural center from around 700 A.D. To 1200 A.D.Ek Balam Entry Arch Mayan Ruins Yucatan Mexico

Though the major structures such as the pyramid are not as well preserved as some in the region, the state of preservation seen in its plaster friezes is astonishing. Nowhere else in the Yucatan will you find carvings and statues in such wonderful condition.

As archaeologists uncover these marvelous pieces of art, they are taking additional steps to safeguard them. One will notice newly constructed roofs of palm leaves covering many examples of these friezes, a serious effort to protect these wonderful works of art from the elements. These palm roofs make the pyramid look like an ancient apartment house, but they are there for good reason and the efforts of the archaeologists to not only find but also preserve these amazing artifacts should not go unappreciated.

Mayans often built structures in layers, adding more
and more to their various buildings and monuments over time. Archaeologists have found such layers of construction on the giant pyramid, known as La Torre, or sometimes called “The Acropolis”.

They have found the same sort of construction history for the “Oval Palace”, or La Redonda (The Round One). Other structures, such as Las Gameles (The Twins) were probably built as originally planned; the grove between them aligns perfectly with the sun on the morning of the summer equinox. Such things were important to the Mayans.

You can climb to the top of the Oval Palace and get a beautiful view of the entire site. If you are more ambitious, you can climb to the top of the pyramid and get an even better view. Though not fully intact, and hence not at its full height, this massive structure was at one time the largest in the Yucatan. Its marvelous base, carved intricately with Mayan hieroglyphs, is about 500 feet wide, and nearly 200 feet deep. The most marvelous frieze on the site is located two-thirds of the way up the side of the pyramid. Known as “The Mask” or “The Jaguar”, this nearly 20 foot high face features a huge gaping mouth lineed all around with sculptured teeth that were clearly made to be fierce then and are equally as fierce today. Almost intact, this is one of the friezes that look almost as good today as it did a thousand years ago.
There is much to see in Ek Balam. You can quickly walk through the site in a few hours, or much longer. Either way, you’ll be glad you made the trip.

The site is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day. Admission is around $3.00, USD. Be sure to tip the restroom attendants for keeping the facilities clean.

This article was written by:

Robert Henrickson


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