The palaces of the elite
Palenque, the traditional enemy, as well as against other cities in Chiapas and the surrounding lowlands.
San Cristóbal de las Casas. He was quite nimble in moving up, down, and around the Acropolis. Unfortunately, he spoke no English and my Spanish is insufficient for anything as sophisticated as archeological questions. He did show me the various structures and sculptures, for which I was grateful because I could have easily missed some on my own. Keep in mind that what you see above is just one small section. The door at the top center leads to yet another maze, and so on.
corbel, or "false," arch is built. Stone slabs are placed closer and closer together as the door rises until a long lintel can complete the top. The Maya architects never achieved the true arch. This meant that their walls had to be especially thick and the rooms long and narrow. I could only pass through this door by stooping slightly. The ancient Maya, like their modern counterparts, were of fairly short stature. The lower part of the wall at the left is still covered by a layer of plaster. Brightly painted plaster or stucco would have covered most of the rough stonework we see today.
Uxmal and elsewhere, the only ones I saw at Toniná were square in shape. Long pillared porches are still a staple in Mexican architecture. These provide protection from rain and sun and allow a great deal of outdoor living.
The common person's home was called a nah and was made of sticks and mud. The only part of those perishable homes to have survived are the stone platforms on which they were built.
Mexica (Aztecs) had a highly organized system of public restrooms from which the human waste was regularly collected for use as fertilizer on their chinampas (floating orchards and vegetable gardens). However, all that was destroyed in the Conquest.
Temples of the upper Acropolis
roof comb more clearly. Notice the small windows in the side of the temple, typical of those found throughout the Acropolis complex. To the left of the Temple, on a lower level, you can see part of the palace complex we visited earlier in this posting. The people living and working on the upper levels of the Acropolis would have had magnificent views of the Valle de Ocosingo and the mountains of Chiapas' central highlands. Aside from the aesthetic aspect, enemies could be seen approaching from a considerable distance.
Maya pantheon. The number 13 was especially potent in the Maya cosmos: 13 principle gods, thirteen levels of heaven, and 13 months of 20 days each in the sacred 260-day calendar. It doesn't end there, but you get the idea.
John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood stopped by in the 1840s on their way to better known sites such as Palenque. Serious excavation didn't begin until the first part of the 20th Century. Significant discoveries are still being made, including some in 2013.
functions of the ruler and the priests and warriors who surrounded him. Their top responsibilities were to ensure the proper functioning of the agricultural economy, and the successful conduct of warfare. The bottom three levels of the War Temple are relatively intact, but the upper levels have been largely destroyed. According to the model in the museum, there were three additional levels topped by a large roof comb. The two flights of stairs you see directly in front of you, on the east side of the Temple of War, each contain 9 steps, echoing the 9 levels of the underworld. On the north side, there are several other sets. The bottom of these contains 13 steps, a familiar number.
This completes Part 17 of my Chiapas series. Next time we'll take a close look at the Temple of the Smoking Mirror and at some of the many stone and stucco sculptures found on the various levels. I always appreciate feedback. If you'd like to leave a comment or have a question answered, please either use the Comments section below or email me directly.
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Hasta luego, Jim