• Fri. Mar 31st, 2023

Ek’ Balam: Haunting Ruins of an Abandoned Maya Kingdom


Dec 30, 2022

One of the vital fascinating archaeological websites in Central America is Ek’ Balam. Ek’ Balam is present in Temozón, Yucatán, Mexico within the Northern Maya lowlands, a number of miles northeast of Chichen Itza. Peaking within the eighth century AD, Ek’ Balam was as soon as a Mayan kingdom and regional middle of as much as 20,000 individuals, unfold over 7 miles (11.2 kilometers). The location was rediscovered within the late nineteenth century by Désiré Charnay, a French archaeologist; nonetheless, excavations didn’t start till the twentieth century, and solely a fraction has been absolutely documented.

What makes Ek’ Balam so particular, and what’s it most recognized for? Why was town deserted? And what can we inform in regards to the historic civilization of Ek’ Balam primarily based on the gathering of artifacts they left behind?  

The traditional Mayan metropolis of Ek’ Balam as soon as lined 7 miles (11.2 kilometers), however solely about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) is cleared and open to the general public. With an estimated previous inhabitants of as much as 20,000, many extra discoveries await in future excavations. ( skostep / Adobe Inventory)

Ek’ Balam: In depth Ruins of an Historic Metropolis

Ek’ Balam, that means ‘black jaguar’ or ‘solar jaguar’ within the Maya language , was not absolutely excavated till the late twentieth century, properly after Désiré Charnay’s demise. Work on the positioning started within the Eighties and continued into the late Nineteen Nineties, as archaeologists on the positioning continued to uncover historic remnants of the long-lost civilization. It took a number of years for all the artifacts to be recognized and the North Maya hieroglyphic texts to be translated by consultants within the area. 

There are roughly 45 totally different constructions which were recognized all through the positioning. These constructions embrace partitions, temples, palaces, courts, tombs, and the primary plaza. The principle palace, known as the Oval Palace, contained a number of burial relics . The construction of the palace, its location, and the presence of those relics all recommend that the palace was concerned in cosmological ceremonies of some form.

The Oval Palace at Ek’ Balam. There are several indications it may have been an observatory and/or ceremonial center. (Gildardo Sánchez / CC BY 2.0)

The Oval Palace at Ek’ Balam. There are a number of indications it might have been an observatory and/or ceremonial middle. (Gildardo Sánchez / CC BY 2.0 )

The most important construction recognized in Ek’ Balam is the Acropolis. This construction is without doubt one of the most intriguing on the web site as a result of archaeologists found it contained the tomb of Ukit Kan Lek Tokʼ, certainly one of Ek’ Balam’s historic rulers. It was one of many final constructions on the positioning that archaeologists excavated as a result of it seemed to be solely a big mound. 

The Acropolis of Ek’ Balam in Yucatan, Mexico. The tiered structure leads up to El Trono (‘The Throne’). (Nikla / Adobe Stock)

The Acropolis of Ek’ Balam in Yucatan, Mexico. The tiered construction leads as much as El Trono (‘The Throne’). ( Nikla / Adobe Inventory)

Additional evaluation of the Acropolis revealed the temple by which Ukit Kan Lek Tokʼ was buried. The temple is nicknamed El Trono (‘The Throne’), and has an entrance formed just like the mouth of a jaguar

The entrance to the tomb of Ukit Kan Lek Tok’ is framed as a jaguar’s mouth, with sculpted teeth among other ornate figures (Jkraft5 / Adobe Stock)

The doorway to the tomb of Ukit Kan Lek Tok’ is framed as a jaguar’s mouth, with sculpted enamel amongst different ornate figures ( Jkraft5 / Adobe Inventory)

Ek’ Balam’s Spectacular Structure: From Partitions to Work

Different notable factors within the excavation of Ek’ Balam embrace the positioning’s defensive partitions, wall work, and total construction. Your complete web site is surrounded by two curved defensive partitions that served to guard the civilization from assault. Makes an attempt to go across the partitions could be futile, as town was additionally surrounded by deep sinkholes that might not be handed. 

The interior wall is carved and lined in plaster, shockingly well-preserved for its age. The outer wall is much less ornamental and was purely for protection functions. Archeologists have recognized this outer wall as the biggest defensive wall within the Late Traditional Yucatan. An extra interior wall fabricated from rubble was found close to the Nice Plaza. Consultants decided that this wall was seemingly a last-ditch try to guard town from some kind of assault earlier than town was deserted for security functions. 

Archaeologists on the web site found that most of the buildings had been positioned and designed in alignment with sacred and astrological constructions. The location accommodates a number of roads which break off into the 4 cardinal instructions within the middle. These 4 roads recommend an intentional separation to symbolize the four-part cosmos of Mayan cosmology , which might have made these roads sacred. 

Lastly, archaeologists on the web site found a number of wall work all through the Acropolis. Many of those had been northern Maya hieroglyphic texts that wanted translation, whereas others had been photos requiring skilled interpretation.

Head of serpent with Mayan writing, Ek' balam (Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez / CC BY SA 3.0)

Head of serpent with Mayan writing, Ek’ balam (Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez / CC BY SA 3.0 )

One of the vital well-known work found contained in the Acropolis was that of a deer being hunted, which consultants imagine is a mythological illustration of the origin of demise. Others seem to depict K’awiil, the well-known Maya deity of lightning and maize. 

This representation of the celestial deity called K'awiil is related to abundance, fire and lightning. This piece was a decorative part of the Ek Balam Acropolis. (National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico / CC BY NC)

This illustration of the celestial deity known as Okay’awiil is said to abundance, fireplace and lightning. This piece was an ornamental a part of the Ek Balam Acropolis. (Nationwide Institute of Anthropology and Historical past of Mexico / CC BY NC )

Deciphering the Web site: Who Constructed Ek’ Balam?

Primarily based on their discoveries, consultants imagine that Ek’ Balam was occupied between the Center Preclassic and the Postclassic durations. From its origin through the Center Preclassic to the Late Preclassic interval, town continued to increase and develop its inhabitants till it grew to become a significant metropolis in its area. It grew so giant by the Late Preclassic interval that it grew to become the capital of the area’s controlling polity. 

Ukit Kan Leʼk Tokʼ, essentially the most well-known ruler of Ek’ Balam, dominated town from roughly 770 to 802 AD. He’s the first ruler related to Ek’ Balam, since he was the ruler through the metropolis’s top between 700 and 840 AD. Throughout his rule, Ek’ Balam was thought-about a significant regional useful resource for surrounding cities. It was additionally round this time that Ek’ Balam grew to become recognized for its pottery and structure as a result of its ceramics production

After 840 AD, the civilization at Ek’ Balam started to say no. The inhabitants began to lower as households left for security functions. As beforehand talked about, consultants imagine that town was beneath assault from some kind of risk, which pressured residents out of town. Between some households emigrating and others being killed by this unknown risk, the civilization of Ek’ Balam was quickly dispersed fully, leaving their beloved metropolis deserted. 

The Problem: Discovering Extra Proof

There may be little different details about the civilization that was as soon as at Ek’ Balam. A Sixteenth-century textual content titled Relación Geográfica means that it was as soon as a part of a kingdom known as Talol, which was based by a person named Coch Cal Balam from the east, and was later managed by an aristocratic household known as the Cupuls. Nevertheless, that is the one textual content that mentions any of this. 

Ek’ Balam is an enchanting archaeological web site that gives some thrilling perception into the civilization that when thrived there. Though extra proof is but to be found about this web site, consultants proceed to work to uncover texts and artifacts that will present a deeper take a look at this now-abandoned historic web site.

Prime picture: One in all two mirrored temples at Ek’ Balam known as Los Gemelos (The Twins). Supply: Jose Ignacio Soto / Adobe Inventory

By Lex Leigh


Aimers, J. J. 2007. What Maya Collapse? Terminal Traditional Variation within the Maya Lowlands . Journal of Archaeological Analysis, 15(4), 329–377. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41053243   

Bey III, G. 2020. Ek’ Balam . Oxford Artwork On-line. https://doi.org/10.1093/oao/9781884446054.013.2000000218  

Bey, G. J., Bond, T. M., Ringle, W. M., Hanson, C. A., Houck, C. W., & Lope, C. P. 1998. The Ceramic Chronology of Ek Balam, Yucatan, Mexico. Historic Mesoamerica , 9(1), 101–120. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0956536100001887  

Coleman, D. n.d. Ek Balam Mayan Ruins on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula . Have Digital camera, Will Journey. Obtainable at: https://archive.ph/20110817180513/http://havecamerawilltravel.com/ek-balam-mayan-ruins-mexico-yucatan-photos/  

Dahlin, B. H. 2000. The Barricade and Abandonment of Chunchucmil: Implications for Northern Maya Warfare . Latin American Antiquity, 11(3), 283–298. https://doi.org/10.2307/972179  

Why was Ek Balam deserted? Could 4, 2022. Motion Tour Information. Obtainable at: https://actiontourguide.com/2022/05/04/why-was-ek-balam-abandoned

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