Sayil is not far from Uxmal, and has a special notoriety in the archaeological community, because it has been carefully mapped, even the residential sprawl, which is uncommon. Sayil isn’t flashy, nor is it large when compared to Uxmal and other better-known nearby sites. This is the largest civic-ceremonial structure, rivaling I should think the largest mound at Ek’Balam for its length. No entry, but there’s plenty to examine about its façade.

Sayil_detailI love the little “Upside Down God” above this doorway. You can find this stylized figure at later sites.

I also find the vertical details interesting. It’s repeated on other buildings at Sayil, and we also saw it on the building that has the turtles along the façade at Uxmal. I have yet to encounter discussions of its symbolism, so I feel free to offer my own hypothesis. To me they look, first, like drainpipes, sectioned together. Both here and at Uxmal, they are presented vertically, resembling, I think, reeds. Like horsetails. I don’t know enough about the ecology to know if they grow around here, or how reeds (or this vertical motif) might relate to Maya mythology. Maybe they’re just a simple aesthetic, a vertical motif added to overwhelmingly horizontal buildings….

Sayil_outlierSayil doesn’t have many reconstructed buildings, so walking its trails is rather like strolling a woods trail. This building is a ways from the central architecture, with just a little opening in the canopy to let in the sun. We came around a bend in the trail, our eyes closed down in the shade, and stood blinking at this unexpected view.