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The Mayan area of the Pu’uk zone

The Mayan World in Mexico, in the Yucatan Peninsula

In the Mayan cultural area, there existed in different epochs and geographical areas, numerous cities and political entities, that possessed different architectural and artistic styles. In the Yucatan Peninsula (Northern Maya area), among many, developed a style that to date fascinates both visitors and researchers; This is the PU’UC architectural style, so called by the area in which it was developed, the Puuc region.

This area is located in the region corresponding to the mountains located between the current states of Yucatán and Campeche, hence the term Puuc, which in Mayan language means hill or set of hills, Serranía. In this area numerous settlements were developed, this in spite of a rough aspect, and is that, in the PUUC there is a small quantity of natural sources of water, besides the eyes of water that are formed in the zone, but that depend entirely on the rainfalls of temporal.  However, this aspect of its environment was not a great obstacle for these settlements to become important cities and develop a beautiful architectural style.

The architectural style developed by the Puuc Maya, corresponds firstly to the smooth and symmetrical finishes of the frontal facades of their buildings as well as the aesthetic refinement of stone carving and masonry; And in second place to the beautiful designs of the decorated friezes of the buildings, loaded with abundant religious “imagery” and geometric designs, among which highlights the constant presence of rhombuses, which resemble the embroideries of the hipiles of women and in Some cases to the snake scales.

The most common motives represented are the religious, in some cases snakes, related to the supernatural nature of this animal in the Mayan culture, but which are not related to the feathered serpent; And also figureheads who represent the god Chack, patron of water and rain. This last trait takes on a great sense when it is taken into account that in this region there were few water sources, it depended on the storage of rainwater and the temperatures can be very high. That is to say the dedication of the buildings of the city to the god Chack, corresponds to the desire to be benefited with the favour of its rains.

In the second instance, representations of elite characters are visible on the facades of some buildings, often from their faces or heads, especially in Uxmal.

At this point one would be wondering, if the water was so scarce, as the Mayas of the Pu’uc subsisted? And the answer is the following, through a system of collection and storage of water called Chultún, this, consisted of an artificial well, dug in the subsoil, as a cistern, covered inside with stucco and selllado with a “lid” that facilitated Collecting rainwater. In cities such as Uxmal, Kabah and Sayil present numerous chultunes in all its extension, especially in the domestic areas.

The sites developed in this cultural area, are located, as mentioned before, between the States of Yucatán and Campeche, the best known of this style, are in the state of Yucatán. At present some sites of the Yucatan Puuc are part of a tourist corridor known as the Puuc route, within this route are the sites of Uxmal, Kabah, Sayil, Xlapak and Labná, in addition to the caves of Lol-Tún, but these ulimas deserve a post apart , and we will be able to address them soon.

If this topic is interesting to the reader, I will leave in this same post, bibliography consulted for this post.

  • Barrera Vázquez, Alfredo, Eduardo Enrique Rios, Roman Pina Chán, Ricardo de Robina, H.E. D Pollock. 1981 Mayan Art: Uxmal, Sayil, Labna and the Puuc zone. Editor of the southeast, Mexico.
  • Gendrop Paul. 1983 The Rio Bec, Chenes and Puuc styles in Mayan architecture. National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico City

Author: Gabriel G. Aké