The Magnificence of Mayan Structures

The Magnificence of Mayan Structures

Rising out of jungle across the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico are the ruins of dozens of Mayan cities. Most of these ruins are at least 1,200 years old, dating back to the glory days of the Maya around 700 AD.

Discovered though largely ignored by Spanish conquistadors during their Aztec conquest in the 16th century, it was 300 years later, in the 19th century, when European explorers ‘discovered’,  and subsequently took the time to investigate and learn the ways to unlock the wonders of this fascinating pre Hispanic civilization.

Mayan structure

A great Mayan structure

Today the sites of Chichenitza, Tulum, Palenque and Uxmal are internationally famous but scores of other sites remain little known and visited.

One  such site, Coba, about two hours drive south of Cancun, and one hour west of Tulum, is home to the largest Mayan pyramid in Mexico, which visitors can still climb.

Coba was an important Mayan city, evidenced by the many raised stone roads linking its buildings which stretch out across a 120 square kilometre site. Here you can see two Mayan ball courts where the Mayans played their ingenious ball game, pelota. Then  bicycle or walk along enchanting paths encased by the jungle canopy to visit the imposing Nohoch Mul, at 138 feet the highest Mayan structure in the Yucatan.

Sak Ch’een, lord of Motul de San José c.8th century,[27] dressed as a ball player with a large yoke, painted deerskin hip guards, and elaborate headdress. He is dropping onto his knee to strike the ball, which is probably exaggerated to huge proportions. Photograph by Madman2001

Sak Ch’een, lord of Motul de San José c.8th century,[27] dressed as a ball player with a large yoke, painted deerskin hip guards, and elaborate headdress. He is dropping onto his knee to strike the ball, which is probably exaggerated to huge proportions. Photograph by Madman2001

For how long tourists will be allowed to clamber up the steps of this awesome structure remains to be seen as the Mexican authorities step up their efforts to preserve the wonders of this magnificent pre Hispanic civilization.

Learn more Mayan culture in our epsiode, La Ruta Maya