My previous two postings covered the Great Acropolis, which occupies the east side of Edzná's Main Plaza. This time, we'll look at the much older Small Acropolis, which lies directly south of the Great Acropolis. In preparing this and the next three postings, I am heavily indebted to Edzná, A Prehispanic City of Campeche. This outstanding archeological report was written by Antonio Benavides Castillo. Unless otherwise noted in links, nearly all the information presented here--including the drawings and floor plans--is from this report. Anyone who wants more than a tourist-level understanding of Edzná should consider reading the report before visiting.
The Small Acropolis
This temple is the most important of the four structures because of its location and size. In addition, it has two rooms on top while the others have only one room each. The Small Acropolis is centuries older than the Great Acropolis. It is possible that the Great Acropolis' platform design (see Parts 2 and 3 of this series) was based on its smaller neighbor. Further, the placement of the Temple of the Decorated Stairs in the eastern position may have inspired the eastern placement of the Great Acropolis' Pyramid of the Five Levels.
Several upright stone blocks containing hieroglyphs were found in the South Plaza immediately in front of the stairway. These blocks are called stelae. Others were mounted on the stairs themselves. Still more stelae were uncovered in the rubble under the stairs, where they had been used as fill. One stela had markings from the 8th Baktun of the Maya calendar, which was the period between 41 AD and 435 AD.
These monuments help date the Small Acropolis to the Early Classic period, possibly as early as 300 AD. In addition, pottery fragments dating as early as 400 BC were found in the area. Altogether, this makes the Small Acropolis the oldest of Edzná's ceremonial areas. As such, it no doubt held great religious and political significance to the inhabitants. This is further emphasized by the temples' continued use until almost 1500 AD, when the occupation of Edzná ended.
However, the most ancient architectural elements of the structure are in the Early Classic Petén style (300-600 AD). These include two stucco masks once located on the west side of the structure, with one on either side of the staircase. There is a small, rectangular room on top with doorways on both the east and west sides. The room was added in Late Post-Classic period (1200-1500 AD) and was likely roofed with perishable materials.
The Temple gets its name from various decorations, including human and animal figures, carved in bas relief on the risers of its staircase. Many of these carvings appear to have been recycled from monuments that were originally located elsewhere in Edzná. Some of these sources may have included fragments of stelae.
In the left center are two figures carrying containers. They appear to approach each other ceremoniously. An animal stands between them and a smaller one watches from the right. In the center right are two figures carrying what may be spears or clubs.
In the lower left are two figures, one standing and the other seated. They each gesture with one hand raised, possibly in reverence. Two more figures appear in the lower right. One is profile of a head, while below it is a standing figure with both hands raised, possibly in prayer or supplication.
The base, stairs, and rear ramp are in the Petén style. The walls of the room are made from Puuc-style stone blocks. The blocks had been recycled from other structures, indicating that the room may be Post-Classic. The ceramic materials recovered here provide an unbroken timeline from the Late Pre-Classic era to the Late Post-Classic. One of the Petén-style stone blocks in the northeast corner is carved with the right profile of a human head. The figure wears a hat and has its tongue sticking out. Perhaps this is a message from antiquity, telling us that "you'll never figure us out!"
A broad staircase extends across the front. The left side of the stairs begins at the top of the extended platform but, to its right, they begin at the ground level. The staircase leads up to a single long room with three doors separated by two pilasters. Just outside the doors is a small rectangular altar. When they dug into 419-1, archeologists discovered a substructure that had once been completely covered with stucco and painted red.
The diadem on the mask's head dress is a three-pointed flower with a circle in the middle. A similar diadem was found on a jade mask at the great city of Tikal, in Guatemala. The flower and circle symbolize ajaw ("lord" or "governor") and denote high political rank. At the base of the figure are some horizontal bands with a knot in the middle. This is a key element of the emblem glyph for Tikal and represents union or alliance. The presence of these symbols puzzles me. Edzná was a close ally of Calakmul which, for centuries, was Tikal's great rival.
This completes Part 4 of my Edzná series. In my next posting, I will continue with the ceremonial structures surrounding the South Plaza, including the Temple of the Masks, the South Temple and the Ball Court. I hope that you enjoyed this posting. If so, please leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below. If you leave a question, PLEASE leave your email address so that I can respond.
Hasta luego, Jim