You have to really want to visit this site or you won’t get here. Refer to a guide book for details. We traveled the Yucatán in a private car, which made it relatively easy. From atop a pyramid, you can see only trees and a very few of the tallest neighboring structures. You will feel a small being in a big world. Those who built these pyramids didn’t have this view, however; they saw a patchy landscape, a mosaic of small houselots with associated garden areas, and probably only scattered trees, at least near the civic-ceremonial areas. Some trees must have been kept, though, because the residents used prodigious amounts of firewood not only for cooking but to process the plaster and mortar for construction.
Mayanists call these long buildings, usually one (as here) but perhaps two rooms deep (rarely more), range structures. At Calakmul, excavators have tried to keep extant stelae in position, generally in front of a building. We now know they help us interpret a site’s history. Stelae were erected to commemorate events, and sometimes buildings were modified at the same time. At many sites, these links have been lost.
Sunday, 22 January 2006