Yaxchilan - Mayan ruins on the Usumacinta river in Chiapas, Mexico
Down the Usumacinta river
A journey down the Usumacinta river to Yaxchilan in Chiapas, Mexico is how we begin this adventure. This month's spotlight is a collection of pages from our trip to the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico. Some of you may never visit Chiapas. It certainly is not on an itinerary for the Riviera Maya since it's a full day drive away, but Chiapas is a diverse state with pasture lands, mountain jungles, rivers, waterfalls, canyons, colonial cities, and the Maya who have lived here for centuries.
The Usumacinta Province
Yaxchilan and other Mayan sites in the area like Bonampak are refered to as the "Usumacinta Province". They share certain characteristics, such as roof combs at the center of the temples and ornamentation modeled almost entirely in stucco over the frieze on the second section of the buildings. They all reflect mastery of the architectural technique of covering wide spaces with roofs supported by walls.
A walk through time
The particular characteristics of Yaxchilan are stela, lintels, alters, stairs, bas-relief carvings in stucco, and mural painting, all of which are integrated into the architecture resulting in a unified whole. Based on the architecture, ceramic materials, and hieroglyphic inscriptions, archaeologists have determined that the occupation of Yaxchilan began before the year 250 AD and ended around 900 AD.
There are more than 120 structures in the central area, distributed in three great complexes: the Great Plaza, located in the lower part, parallel to the river; the Grand Acropolis; and the Small Acropolis, all of which are skillfully adapted to the contours of the low limestone hills in the south by means of terraces and platforms. Stairways, ramps, and distribution terraces connect the three complexes. Yaxchilan map