The ancient Maya city of Uxmal is one of the best-preserved cities to discover just out of Merida in the Yucatan Peninsula.
There are many excellent ancient Maya ruins found all over the Yucatán Peninsula – two of the most famous ancient Maya cities to visit today include Chichen Itza in Mexico and Tikal in the Central American country of Guatemala. Another of the UNESCO-listed Maya cities to discover while visiting the Yucatán is Uxmal.
Just because Chichen Itza is the most famous of the ruins, that doesn’t mean visitors should skip the other ancient ruins. One of the great benefits of visiting some of the lesser-known ruins is that they lack crowds (Chichen Itza attracts millions of gawking tourists annually). Uxmal was also unusual for being one of the few Maya cities still inhabited as the Spanish started to conquer the region.
The Uxmal ruins in Yucatan are counted among the most important archeological sites in the Maya region. Other important ancient Maya cities include Chichen Itza, Calakmul, and Palenque in Mexico, Tikal in Guatemala, and Xunantunich and Caracol in Belize.
According to Maya chronicles, it was founded around 500 AD. Most of Uxmal’s buildings were built when it was the capital of a Late Classic Maya state. Its heyday was around 850 to 925 AD. It was the most powerful city in western Yucatán at one time.
For a short time, it also dominated the northern Maya area when it entered into an alliance with Chichen Itza. It was taken over in around 1,000 AD by Toltec invaders, and building had come to a halt by around 1100 AD. Power shifted in the region to the later powerful Maya state of Mayapan.
By the time the Spanish arrived in the region in around 1550, Uxmal was likely still inhabited but a shadow of what it once was. It was abandoned soon after. Before restoration work commenced, it was in a better state of preservation than many of the other ancient Maya sites.
The population of the ancient city was possibly around 15,000 (some sources claim a peak of around 25,000).
- Historic Population: Around 15,000
- Heyday: Around 875 to 900/950 AD
- The Governor’s Palace: The Most Impressive Building Set On A Three-Tiered Platform (Measuring 471 feet by 517 feet)
- The Pyramid of the Magician: Also Called Adivino or the Pyramid of the Dwarf. It Is A Stepped Pyramid With An Unusual Shape
- The Nunnery Quadrangle: Made up Of Four Palaces Built On Different Levels with A Surrounding Courtyard
- Ballcourt: A Large Ballcourt For Mesoamerican Ballgames Dedicated in 901 By the Rule Chan Chak K’ak’nal Ajaw (As Per An Inscription)
There is still much to learn about the history of Uxmal as comparatively little archeological work has been carried out at the site.