One hundred thirty-five meters long, 31 meters wide and 9 meters high, this huge house with its enormous 15-stepped staircase on the east side is similar to other buildings found in other Mayan sites. It was thought to have been an administrative building and the steps could have also been used as seats for events which transpired in the Grand Plaza on the building’s east side.
The native game of pelota was played here as in many other sites throughout Mexico. The object was to knock a ball through hoops that were high on the sides of the pelota field. The pelota field here is found on the south side of the Grand Plaza, a small pyramid rising on the western side.
The Yucatan Peninsula is honeycombed by limestone. Some of the World’s largest cave systems can be found here. The limestone served as the basic building material for the Mayans. Stucco was used to mold decorations for the buildings, though due to its fragile nature, not many of the decorations have survived the years. Here, at the Templo de los Mascarones, two fine stucco masks have, however, been uncovered.
This is the heart of the restored complex at Edzna. Here are the largest excavated temples. They are concentrated on the east side of the Grand Plaza in keeping with the importance of the east in Mayan culture - the side of the daily rebirth of the sun. The Grand Acropolis has a quadangular plan with each side measuring 160 meters. The whole complex is elevated about 8 meters above the Grand Plaza and is accessed by a massive central staircase. Buildings within the Grand Acropolis - Templos de los Cinco Pisos, Templo de la Luna, Templo del Norte - are oriented to the cardinal points of the compass, similar to what can be seen in many areas throughout Mexico.
Built over several centuries, from the 4th to 14th centuries, the Temple of Five Floors is the main edifice within the Grand Acropolis. One of the largest pyramids in the Yucatan, the structure reaches a height of 31.5 meters and not all of the sides have been excavated. Within, there are 27 different rooms that have been discovered. The first four floors were thought to be living quarters for the priests with the top floor reserved for a shrine and altar.
The structure is a truly amazing work. The base of the building measures 60 square meters. There are a few decorations that can be seen near the base still. Temperatures here, as at many other Mayan sites, can easily soar to near 40C - over 100F. The heat radiates off the limestone making for a very warm day. Bring plenty of water and expect to do a little sweating.
On the north side of the Grand Acropolis is this semi-excavated temple. Built in many stages, the first dating to 300-500 AD, with stairways across the entire south side of the structure - probably serving as galleries like for the Nochona building. Several other construction phases added structures to the building and concluded with the upper temple being completed between 1100-1400 AD. Several Mayan architectural styles are in evidence on this building as well as throughout the complex - Puuc, Chenes, Chontal.
In the Small Acropolis, two stucco masks have been uncovered -- one representing the sun god at sunrise and the other at sunset. We were told (by the plaques) that some colour remains of these masks -- red stucco, blue-green jadeite and black (unless you know what you are looking for, it is hard to tell).
The masks are protected from the sun by a wooden cover.
All native communities seemed to have ball courts, and Edzna was no exception, although this one is smaller than most -- between two large buildings. The plaque indicates that this would have been a "practice ball court".
It (the plaque) also said that the court was carefully aligned with a north-south orientation of the principal line of the court. I wonder if that is the case in all ball courts?
I also included a picture of part of that plaque as it has an image of one of the players. According to their archeiologist, ball players had padding like an (American) football player.
The Mayan ruins of Edzna are approximately one hour southeast of Campeche -- they are the only major ruins near Campeche City. Edzna is one of the oldest Mayan cities - born 400 to 200 BC. It achieved major city status in the Classic era (approx 750 AD) and was abandoned by 900 AD. (We read this in the Mayan museum in Chetumal)
The view from the top of the temple is of the Grand Acropolis. By clicking on the thumbnail, in the larger photo you can see the various buildings that make up the four directions of the map - the pyramid I'm standing on is in the east, with the Moon Temple to the south (left) and the North Temple to the north (right).
Directly in front of the pyramid (west) are three different structures. In the middle of the quadrangle is the Altar, behind it are a string of buildings which I can not find the names for, and behind it in front of the forest is Case Grande (or Nohochna)
Getting to Edzna is not that simple. We asked at the information booth in the Campeche plaza. There are basically two options.
Option one is to use prearranged tours. They leave at regular intervals, and are four hour tours - one hour to Edzna, two hours at Edzna and one hour back. Price in 2006 was 200 pesos per person which included transportation and entry into Edzna but no guides. Personally we didn't favour the tours as we usually wished to spend more than two hours at site.
Option two is to use public transport. There are vans (Combi's) that leave Campeche from the Mercado and travel to the town of Edzna for 20 pesos per person (they do drop you off at the ruin) -- also 20 pesos to return, by the way. The entry fee to Edzna (in 2006) was 33 pesos per person. Although it took a little longer (waiting for the Combi to fill up before it left), this is what we did.
Don't forget to bring liquids, etc. Although the guide book promised a restaurant, there was no food or water there -- even the drink machine was not working. Not only that, but the signs told us not to eat any food at the ruin. We quietly ate the lunch we brought at Vieja Hechicera (the remote temple).
The other difficulty is though the Combi van will bring you right to the ruin entrance way, it does not pick you up there. You have to walk the 1/4 km out to the highway to get picked up (it is the Edzna town Combi you are taking, and the town is a little further away than the ruin).
The accompanying photo was taken with the camera out the front window. That is the aerial in the photo. The locals in the bus with me thought the gringos were nuts taking pictures of the countryside going by.
The second photo, by the way was of a town between Edzna and Campeche. The Combi driver had an errand or two to do, so he stopped in this small town on the way (for about 8 minutes) for a pee and some gas to get us back to Campeche with (drivers seem to run on empty all the time).
The north side of the Grand Acropolis is the North Temple. According to its plaque, this temple was built in many stages and with differing architectural styles - probably by different native groups during the hundreds of years (sort of like subsequent owners adding bigger and better porches to people's houses). It is too bad we cannot go back into time to see how these structures were actually being used.
Edzna is the third Mayan ruin we have visited, and of course we were comparing them to each other (our others being Uxmal and Dzibilchultun). The primary temple of Edzna is the Five-Story Temple. Like other main temples, you can see for miles from the top (31 metres high). Also, this temple is built on top of a previous temple or pyramid. Some of the differences: the first four stories of this temple have rooms which might have been living quarters for priests, only the top floor has the temple. Also the style of architecture is different from those we have seen before, more hieroglyphic text and less carvings.
Only part of the site is excavated -- there are numerous mounds that have not been uncovered yet. When one reads about Edzna, you find that (like Uxmal), water is a big issue for Edzna. There were no rivers or cenotes in the area. The Mayans had to devise systems to store water. We were told of a complex system of canals and reservoirs and a moat, but we could not find these water-gathering constructions while we walked about the ruins.
Edzna must have many fewer visiters each year than Uxmal or Dzibilchiltun. There were a couple of guides available, but we only saw them when we were leaving. We got quite a bit of our information from plaques that were set up at various spots (in English, Spanish and Mayan).
After visiting the main ruins, we followed the road to Vieja Hechicera. This road (or path) is over one kilometer long, and leads to an area with a partially reconstructed pyramid. It does not look like any work had gone on here for quite a while.
Only the one building has been worked on, perhaps 10 metres up. Two thirds of the structure remains in its unaltered state - just rocks and trees and vegetation. There are other smaller buildings (actually smaller mounds of rocks) around - also not restored. What a difference it makes when the old ruins are not reconstructed for us! We read that restoration work was done with funds from the international community by Guatemalan refugees.
One of my joys is to climb the Mayan pryamids and temples. The view from the top is usually excellant, and it is awe-inspiring imagining the work that went into their building.
Unlike Uxmal, Edzna has a rope is laid out in the middle of the main staircase. I took that as a sign that the climb is steeper than Uxmal (it is hard to remember relative steepness). I am not in the best of shape but I find climbing a lot easier than descending. I used the rope on the way down, but only as a safety device. When you are descending, you realize that you could fall 30 metres if you slip, so holding on to the rope made me feel quite a bit safer.
In this case, the view from the top is great! You can see hills in the distance, and even small hills nearby that most likely are other temples overrun by vegetation.