Every Sunday near Merida the government grants free entry to a number of different archeological sites in the area. Though the free entry can only be taken advantage of by Mexicans, that doesn’t prevent your average gringo (in this case myself) from joining the tour bus that leaves from the second class bus station in Merida. The cost, a mere 180 pesos, is a savings of a staggering $300+pesos over a tour from any tour company in town. You could even just go to Uxmal if you preferred for the cost of about 90 pesos round trip. Note that entry fees will total nearly 350 pesos for all the sites in addition to any tour or bus fare.
I must admit I’m not a fan of tours, but from what I could tell, visiting this variety of sites over the course of several days by myself would prove very costly. The best part however of this cheap tour of Uxmal isn’t the price, it’s the amazing Mayan sites.
My first thought when I saw the piles of rubble at Kabah was to wonder how anyone managed to sort these stones back into recognizable structures. It became apparent the facades must have simply fallen off in such a fashion to allow archeologist to see the mirror image puzzle laying on the ground. Hundreds of stones were laid out in front of a rough-faced building ready for reassembly. Over time, restoration crews have been reassembling this puzzle back onto the walls and their progress and methods are quite evident.
In Uxmal, the Welcome Centre contains a small gallery with a selection of photos from 1910, most taken before any serious uncovering had taken place. These pictures are situated beside photographs from just a few years ago showing the same view. I found it remarkable how much of the original structures remained and how little restoration some areas required.
While wandering around Uxmal I also came to find a small hut way at the back of the property with a collection of small stone sculptures in it. “Why those look remarkable like a bunch of, uh, phallic objects,” was approximately what I said to the air around me. Sure enough there was a sign stating I was in fact correct. Furthermore there was an additional sign making it very clear one was not to sit on these objects. I wonder if they knew in advance the number of funny pictures that might ensue or learned from damaged phallic sculptures in the past ?
The differences in quality of construction apparently varied greatly in the Mayan world – some sites aren’t nearly as well preserved or neatly laid out to rebuild. In cases when the pyramids are nothing more than a pile of rubble, a lot of guessing goes on. Such is the case of the Sun Pyramid at Teotihuacan, which archeologists now believe was rebuilt with the wrong number of levels. None the less, if it weren’t for the efforts of many, these sites would continue to deteriorate and eventually be lost to the forces of nature. Thankfully, they are here for us to enjoy.