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EK BALAM                                                                                                                                Printer friendly version


Ek Balam is a spectacular pre-Hispanic site located north of Valladolid, on the way to Tizimin. Only five years ago, archeologists discovered an acropolis here with stucco figures in high relief measuring up to four meters. These figures of Ek Balam are wholly original and unique in Mesoamerica

The enormous elaborate Acropolis pyramid, located inside the Mayan site of Ek Balam, is a striking sight after driving miles through the surrounding jungle. Ek Balam, which means “Black Jaguar,” was at the height of its importance as a city during the late Classic period (600-900 AC). When the Maya abandoned the site, it went under cover, literally, as the dense low-lying jungle of the
Yucatán engulfed it. As with all of the Mayan pyramids, these were discovered when archeologists and adventurers saw a group of hills with trees and brush growing out of them. Digging in the mounds, they uncovered treasures of buildings and artifacts hidden for hundreds of years.

At Ek Balam, restoration has been ongoing since 1997. The Acropolis is the largest restored building, measuring 480 feet across, 180 feet wide and 96 feet tall. This palace has six levels where the governors and higher echelons of the cities population lived. Archeologists believe it was not built by one person or all at once. You can climb this imposing structure, and from the top you can see all the other structures at Ek Balam, as well a two large hills which are two unrestored buildings.

At the entrance to the Acropolis pyramid there is a monster-like figure that is said to be guarding the entrance to the underworld. Under the thatched roofs that protect the facade, other statues and carvings of angels, animals and various figures are integrated in a complex and beautiful design.

Visually most impressive is its splendid central plaza bordered by three massive ceremonial structures. The complex also features a number of smaller temples, altars, and living quarters. The chief pyramid, known as the tower, is comparable in size (100 feet high, 517 feet long and 200 feet wide) with northeastern
Yucatán's most remarkable Mayan buildings. The central plaza grouping is encompassed by two low walls girdling 310 of the settlement's overall 2,500 acres. As recently as 1987 a pre-Spanish road, or sacbé, or network, was uncovered and found to fan out to distances of up to one mile or more.

Recent research shows that the site was inhabited from as far back as the late pre-classic and early classic periods (100 BC - 300 AD) and on down to the time of the Spanish conquest and colonization.

Archeological research thus far points to the rise of this site to prominence some time between 400 and 600 AD, which in the Mayan area is referred to as the Early Classic period. In a 16th century Spanish account, historical and geographic reports of the government of
Yucatán, mention is made of the founding of Ek Balam and the group that ruled it during its first 40 years, though about the time period when those events actually took place nothing is said.

The site was subservient to a provincial capital called Tikibalon, Mayan for "Black Tiger," and whose ruler was one Couch Cal Balam, or "Everyone's overlord."

The peak of Ek Balam's development has been traced to the 700-1000 AD period, now designated the Terminal Classic. At that time older buildings were enlarged and given their greatest bulk, while the site held sway over the region north of
Valladolid, where one finds to day a dozen or so important sites. Ek Balam may have been the nerve center for local agricultural output and management in pre-Spanish times. As much is suggested by the fact that even at present the area produces goodly volumes of corn, wax, honey, and cotton.

The decline of the settlement might have been due to gradual depopulation beginning in about 1200 AD, a year which falls within the Post-Classic period. By then building works had dropped to record low levels, involving but small temples or shrines erected atop Classic period stone platforms.

The factors which in actuality brought on Ek Balam's fall are not known with any certainty; however, perhaps together with other large sites in the Mayan area, its abandonment was due to political infighting which, once it disrupted the social populace to gravitate back to the country side.

Ek Balam, located just north of
Valladolid, is special in another sense: It is never overwhelmed with tourists. While it is quieter and more peaceful than Chichén-Itzá, it also is not as fully excavated nor does it provide the same comfort facilities for the traveler. There is one restroom at the site, but no refreshments, so be sure to bring your own. You can buy drinks and food at two small villages that you will pass on your way from the main road.

For prices, reservations, availability and bookings, please contact us at: visit@luxuriousmexico.com


Yucatan, Ek Balam, Archeological zone, Acropolis, La Torre 1 - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0405
The Acropolis "La Torre" at Ek Balam
Yucatan, Ek Balam, Archeological zone, Acropolis, La Torre, Sculptures of Winged Guards - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0405
Sculptures of Winged Guards at The Acropolis "La Torre" at Ek Balam
Yucatan, Ek Balam, Archeological zone, Sacbeb - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0405
Sacbé at Ek Balam
Yucatan, Ek Balam, Archeological zone, Arch - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0405
The Arch at Ek Balam