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SAYIL – ZAYI ARCHEOLOGICAL ZONE                                                     Printer friendly version


“Place of the Ants” in Mayan, Sayil saw its peak of splendor during the late Classic period, between the 8th and 9th centuries AD. The delicate bas-reliefs, the palaces on the north and south sides, and The Ball Court stadium are proofs of the splendor of the Mayan culture.

Sayil was constructed and inhabited at the end of the Terminal Classic period of the Maya (roughly 950 AD) and is built in the similar Puuc style that can be found in Kabáh, Labná and Xlapak, Sayil is another example of this construction style that flourished in the eighth and ninth centuries throughout the Yucatán. As with other Mayan sites, Sayil had a key ceremonial center surrounded by smaller towns, villages and residential centers and was believed at its peak to hold a population of ten thousand people at its core and seven thousand more in the outlying "suburbs."

There are, hundreds of “Chultuns” or basins to catch rainwater in the area of Sayil although most archeologists agree that this may be the result of water prospecting and not actual storage. This may also be related to the apparent lack of any natural or man-made water sources at the site.

Sayil also throws some interesting facts into the discussion of common Mayan homes. While common convention has accepted that the average Mayan home was composed primarily of perishable materials such as cane, mud and palm roofs, Sayil appears to have a high number of homes that were made of stone. It has been concluded by some that have studied the area the stone was the most common material used for the standard Mayan home in the city of Sayil and they were not reserved for the elite as previously thought. Similar conclusions have also been made at other Mayan sites such as Kohunlich and Dzibanche. One theory has been put forth that these cities had an inordinate number of elite Maya families that warranted the stone construction. The other is simply that stone is what the late and Terminal Classic Maya used for building their homes.

Legends surrounding the ruins said that on Good Friday of every year, music can be heard playing throughout the ruins.

The Great Palace of Sayil is similar in style and function, and located minutes by car from the Palace at
Kabáh, and is easily the key structure at Sayil.

A three story structure, roughly 85 meters long and 35 meters wide, The Great Palace is odd compared to other Mayan structures in that it is not symmetrical. The highest floor of seven vaulted rooms appears symmetrical, but the lower two floors are obviously different on either side of the staircase that rises up across the structure, bisecting the building into two halves.

The left side of the building contains numerous small chambers, 12 in all though not all have the typical Mayan "double" design to the inner room. The design is consistent with the Puuc style and it is obvious throughout the building. There are Chaac masks in the friezes of each floor.

The second floor also depicts carvings of the "Descending God" similar to those found in the city of Tulúm.

There is not a lot of information on the function of these rear buildings. They have been partially restored and hopefully, with additional tourist visits and government grants, they will be able to finance a more complete restoration. As a dig progresses, archeologists hope to find clues telling them the date the buildings were completed or other details as to their functions.

Many of the buildings are a great example of the Puuc style. The "Columns,” both in the wall and in the upper frieze, are meant to represent a stone tree, and identifies the building (and the city) as being of the "Puuc" construction style. It also gives un an indication as to the date the building was constructed as the Puuc style was only used in the eighth and ninth centuries.

Here we find also, the Temple of The Hieroglyphics, named this way due to the Hieroglyphics that are visible on the partial doorjamb buried under the rubble of the ruined building. Many archeologists believe that maybe this building is a different version of the written Mayan Codices, perhaps there is a hidden floor leading to a tomb.

There are great examples in Sayil of just how much damage the jungle can do to a city, even though it is made of stone. Trees have grown up from the floor of the jungle to grow the full height of the building. These trees will have to be removed. Otherwise, as they grow they will eventually begin displacing the bricks of the buildings.

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Yucatan, Sayil, Archeological zone, Puuc Route, Great Palace - Photo by German Murillo Echavarria 0405

The Great Palace at Sayil

Yucatan, Sayil, Archeological zone, Puuc Route, Great Palace, Secod Floor - Photo by German Murillo Echavarria 0405
The Second Floor at The Great Palace of Sayil
Yucatan, Sayil, Archeological zone, Puuc Route, Residential Buildings - Photo by German Murillo Echavarria 0405
Other buildings at Sayil
Yucatan, Sayil, Archeological zone, Puuc Route, Great Palace, Chaac Mask detail - Photo by German Murillo Echavarria 0405
Detail of a Chaac Mask at The Great Palace of Sayil