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Uaxactún
 

The site of Uaxactún (Siaan K’aan or Born in Heaven)  its ancient name, is located in the north of Petén, Guatemala. Uaxactún also known as Waxactún, was a major Mayan city situated about twelve miles north of the most important Mayan city, in the classic period, Tikal. The ceramicAcropolis Plaza sequence that came out of early work there provided the basis for the entire Maya lowland chronology. The different groups in Uaxactún are also the gold standard in the archeology nomenclature used in all the Maya sites. The art work in Uaxactún are also among the finest (see Vase  and sculpture below) The earliest examples of the use of Zero by the Maya Culture, are Uaxactún's Stelas 18 and 19, on 357 AD.

                                  
Warrior holding a Torch, Possibly at the entrance of the Main Palace,
 Shown in local Museum

Temple A XVUaxactún was inhabited from the Middle Pre-Classic on through the late Classic period, but flourished mainly in the Classic Period, from 500 AD to 900 AD. The earliest dated inscription of 328 AD, was found on Stela 9, and the most recent, 889 AD, was found on Stela 12. Along Mask in Temple A XVwith other evidence, these dates prove that Uaxactún existed longer than any other Mayan city in Petén. Possibly from as early as 900 BC. Although this will have to be revised due to the impressive sites of Nakbé and El Mirador, considered now the oldest in the Mayan World. Along with other Pre Classic Maya cities, Uaxactún declined during the 9th century and was abandoned by the first part of the 10th century. Throughout the following centuries, the city was consumed by the dense jungle of northeast Guatemala and was not rediscovered until the early 20th century. During the 1930's, extensive research was done mainly, but not exclusively, by the Carnegie Institution of Washington, that laid the base for modern investigations of Maya civilization. It was named Uaxactún, which means “eight stones,” by Sylvanus Morley. He came up with the name from an inscription he found in one of the stelas that he deciphered. (A gift from the King of Tikal after Uaxactún defeated him).


Main Temple

A brief summary of the growth at the site of Uaxactún can be recovered from excavations carried out over different areas of the site. These excavations reveal that the growth of Uaxactún can be divided up into a set of relatively distinct phases. These divisions are represented by changes in Uaxactún architecture although the dates sometimes overlap because the growth of Uaxactún was continuous.

The earliest phase which has been called the Early Development Period began sometime in the first or second millennium BC. And lasted until about 100 AD. During this time the residents of Uaxactún lived in wood and thatched huts without foundations.

The second period called the Late Development Period ended just before the beginning of the fourth century AD. During this time stone and mortar masonry was used and structures were built around level squares and plazas. A very famous war,  documented in the Maya Culture, with Tikal,  is recorded  in Stela 5 from Uaxactún: On 8.17.1.4.12  11 Eb' 15 Mac, or January 16, A.D. 378 and Tikal's Kalomté, Siyaj K’ahk’ or "Fire is Born",  formerly known as Smoking Frog, ruled Tikal from Uaxactún after its conquest.                                                                                                       Stela 5

The last period at Uaxactún known as the Classic Period lasted from 280 AD to 890 AD and is divided into two phases, the Early and Late Classic. The Early Classic Period lasted about 320 years. During this time masonry temples were constructed around paved plazas. The Late Classic Period began around 590 AD and lasted until about 890 AD. The year 889 AD marks the end of important building activity at Uaxactún. During this period many new structures were built along with more plazas and terraces.

Temple E VII-B (Temple of the Masks)

Many structures were built throughout Uaxactún. A number of ceremonial buildings were erected before the end of the Late Pre Classic Period and the beginning of the Classic.

Complex E:

One of the most notable series of buildings at the site is that formed by Structures E-1, E-2, and E-3, which are aligned north-south and form an astronomical observatory, the first found in the Maya world. From a observation point on a nearby pyramid Structure E-VII-B, the early Maya could watch the sun rise behind these buildings and mark the summer and winter solstices (the longest and shortest days of the year) as well as the vernal and autumnal equinoxes (when day and night are of equal length).

  Structure E-VII-B.  Is a truncated pyramid with stairways on four sides that are flanked by huge masks that are covered with stucco, Representing the Jaguar, Turtles, Eagles, Parrots and other animals sacred to them, also there is an impressive Stela at the east stairway carved in its 4 sides and with remaining of the original red paint. That is the mark for the observation point. All the Important Maya sites have an "E" Group, named afeter this complex, the earliest found by the archaeologist here in Uaxactún.

Other Mayan structures that were used for astronomical purposes were discovered as a result of this revelation. The large stucco sculptures and masks that decorate the stairways and platforms depict individual rulers as well as the Witz monster, who was the guardian of the sacred mountain by the same name.

 
Witz Monster in Structure E Sub VII

A mainstay of the Mayan and Uaxactún diet was maize. This was of prime importance to them and was often featured in their iconography. The swidden (slash Carved Chicozapote linteland burn) method of cultivating maize corresponded to low population densities in Uaxactún. A delicate balance was needed to equally distribute crop production to the people. Terrace intensive farming was also practiced. Uaxactún is with Tikal and El Zotz, a site with wooden carved lintels.

In Uaxactún you can find the earliest Mayan Arch an also remaining of paintings inside the main Pyramid. The site is divided in two sectors the B at the left of the air strip (Not longer in use), and the A to the right. The air Strip is now a soccer court were the actual inhabitants of Uaxactún enjoy their free time. Also the village women manufacture beautiful Dolls made from Tuza (the dry leave of corn cobs) that for US. $ 2, make a perfect souvenir.  You can go there from Tikal, a 35 minutes drive, year round, crossing the Protected Jungle of Tikal National Park, make sure, if you go on your own, to ask permission at Tikal's administrative office (It's free), you would have to be back to Tikal at 6:00 PM or you will be stranded there.  In 1982 Guatemala's Tikal National Park was expanded to included the ruins of Uaxactún within its protected area. 

 

 

     

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Last updated 28/01/2011 17:07:33 -0500
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