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Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Maya of the Yucatan

The accessibility of Mayan sites basically runs in the opposite direction of the expansion of Maya civilization "out of the jungle" and to the North.

  An upcoming trip to the Yucatan has me all excited about the Maya ruins there.  I would say, quite honestly, that the odds of me hitting the Mexican state of Tabasco are about the same as the chances of me hitting the Guatemalan Highlands, so the Yucatan Maya are likely to be it.  The Yucatan Maya are a post-Classic civilization, with a heavy influence by the Mexica/Toltec.  Settlement of the area by pyramid building ambitious types started in the 8th-9th century AD.  Of the three major sites in the Yucatan: Chichen Itza, Mayapan and Uxmal, Mayapan is the most recent with abandonment taking place in the early 15th century, only a hundred years before contact.   Uxmal on the other hand flourished only briefly in the 1000's AD.

   The direct influence of Toltec immigrants seems mostly limited to the Chichen Itza site/polity.  Uxmal is in the style of the Chontal Maya who provided initial settlement of the Yucatan and Mayapan is the product of the existing culture of the Maya after the Toltec arrival.  Additionally, the Chontal Maya themselves came from a place where there were a mixture of settlements by Maya and Mexica.

  The fact that the Yucatan Maya are not a "pure" Mayan civilization is far outweighed by their accessibility.  There's nothing wrong with late period ruins if you are just a casual tourist.  The earlier ruins are, the less impressive and interesting they tend to be for a general audience member.  Both Uxmal and Mayapan have an advantage over Chichen Itza and Tulum in terms of not being totally overrun by tourists already.  The Eastern part of the Yucatan is the tourist nightmare of Cancun, a place I have no intention of visiting.  The western side is centered on the city of Merida, which is experiencing an increase of international awareness due to the efforts of a small group of wealth expatriates to attract attention.

   My experience with the situation vis a vis the Inca sights in the Sacred Valley is that the lesser known sites give as much OR more bang for the buck.  The only thing the better known sites have going for them is more assholes.  If you want to experience an ancient civilization, the less modernity you have surrounding you the better.

  Here are some of my other posts about the Mayans from the past of this blog:

Mayans, Toltecs and Aztecs (10/25/10)
What The Hell Happened To the Maya? (1/26/11)
Maya Resistance to Spanish Rule (9/29/11)
The Conquest of the Last Maya Kingdom (10/9/11)
2nd Take: Maya History and Religion  (2/13/12)

  I think I'm ready to see the ruins!

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