In Part 3 of my Dzibanché series, we will take a look at this pyramid and two of Plaza Xibalba's other structures. Of the 22 plazas that archeologists have so far identified, Plaza Xibalba appears to have been the most important. It was the most important ceremonial area of the Kaan (Snake) Dynasty, which originated at Dzibanché around 200 AD and eventually extended its domination over most of the Late Classic Era (600-1000 AD) Maya world.
Overview: Plaza Xibalba
Xibalba (Shee-bal-ba) means "Place of Fear" in the K'iche' Maya language. Access to the underworld was through caves or cenotes (limestone sinkholes filled with water). Xibalba was ruled by twelve gods collectively known as the Lords of the Underworld. They had horrendous names like "Flying Scab", "Bone Staff", "Pus Demon" and "Bloody Claws". Chief among these Lords were the two gods: "One Death" and "Seven Death".
Xibalba had nine levels through which the newly dead had to pass. Each level contained traps and tests, including hazards such as crossing raging rivers of blood and passing through rooms filled with fire, ravenous jaguars, and razor-sharp obsidian blades. Maya tombs often contain items which were thought to aid the dead in accomplishing this fearsome journey. These include weapons, tools, food, and precious items such as jade. The requirement to pass through Xilbalba had nothing to do with personal conduct, or one's good or bad acts while living. The only way to avoid the journey was to die a violent death.
Edificio 1 - Pirámide del Buho
shows some similarity to the much smaller Pyramid of the Lintels, seen in Part 1. The temple at the top contains a relatively small, narrow room which was once covered by a vaulted, corbel ceiling.
harbingers of death and closely associated with Xibalba. It is not, therefore, surprising to find an owl depicted on a funerary pot. Owls were also powerful symbols at Teotihuacán, the great empire which so strongly influenced the Classic Maya. Palacio Atelco, the military academy of Teotihuacán, is decorated with birds with extended wings that may be owls (although they might also be eagles). Further, the Teotihuacán military leader who took power in Tikal in 378 AD--either through conquest or a coup d'etat--was named Spear-thrower Owl. (Photo from Latin American Studies website)
censer is a ritual device used during religious ceremonies to burn incense, usually copal. Among the pantheon of Maya gods, the Diving God (Ah-Muzen-Cab) was especially important. Archeologists nicknamed him the Diving or Descending God because he is always depicted in an upside down posture, as if he were diving out of the sky.
Although he is portrayed here in human form, he sometimes appears as a bee because he is the god of beekeepers, bees, and honey. Maya beekeeping began thousands of years ago, but became particularly prevalent during the Post Classic Era (1000-1520 AD). The Maya used a species of stingless bee that they called Xunan Kab, but its scientific name is Melipona beecheii. They used honey to make balché, an alcoholic drink consumed in religious festivals. In addition to local consumption, honey was also an important trade item. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Pyramid of the Cormorants is what remains of the large roof comb that once rose above its temple. Below the roof comb, in the lighter colored stone, you can see two large, rectangular surfaces. They are part of a series that cover the back and sides of the pyramid. They show the architectural influence of Teotihuacán.
Palacios Sud y Norte
Palacio Pop in Plaza Gann, there are no sleeping compartments, storage areas, or large rooms for social gatherings.
The answer, apparently, is that Palacios Sur and Norte are not really elite residential spaces at all. Instead, they form, along with Pirámide del Buho, an elaborate funerary monument to the Kaan Dynasty female who is buried in the pyramid. Plaza Xibalba is therefore entirely ceremonial in function, and the elite residential and administrative structures are located elsewhere.
Latin American Studies website)
Museum of Maya Culture in Chetumal. The mural is a reproduction of a mural found in a room at a different Maya city. There are no similar murals at Dzibanché to show us the appearance and adornment of the Kaan Dynasty elite, but they probably looked very much like this.
The male figures wear extravagant head dresses and rich jewelry of jade and other rare stones. Their shoulders are draped with long, white, cotton cloaks with embroidered hems. The only other forms of clothing they wear are embroidered loin cloths with long extensions draping down the front. In Yucatan's typically warm climate, other clothing would be superfluous.
This completes Part 3 of my Dzibanché series. I hope you have enjoyed it. If you would like to leave any thoughts or questions, please do so in the Comments section below or email me directly. If you leave a question in the Comments section, PLEASE leave your email address so that I can respond.
Hasta luego, Jim