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Mayan Ruins – Kabah
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  2/5/12
By: Yona Williams

On the Yucatan Peninsula, you will find the Mayan site called Kabah, which offers an array of buildings that date back to around the 9th century. Kabah is known as a good place to explore the Puuc style of architecture, where an impressive palace serves as one of its regional highlights. Inside, the building is covered in masks that represent the hook-nosed rain god Chac. In this article, you will learn more about the Mayan ruins of Kabah.

While it is believed that Kabah was first inhabited by the 3rd century BC, the buildings of the site were mostly erected during the 9th century. For example, one of the doorjambs bore the date of 857. The last activity in Kabah occurred around 1200 when the city was abandoned. The history of Kabah is not complete – not much is known. The people of the city seemed to depend a great deal on the city of Uxmal. The two city centers were linked by a 'white road' (connected to the Mayan culture) called a sacbe, which was used for ceremonial purposes.

The first exploration of the site took place in mid-19th century when John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood started to investigate the land. By the end of the century, Teobert Maler oversaw the initial digging of the area. The following years saw a decline in interest and fewer archeologists paid attention to the site until 1990. A new program emerged in 2003 under the direction of Ramon Carrasco with the goal of clearing and restoring more buildings and completing additional archeological excavations.
 
When tourists visit Kabah, they typically come to see the ruins that stretch across 2470 acres of land. Ever since 1993, the ruins have received the designation as being a conservation area (which was given the name of Parque Estatal). The ruins are found on both sides of the highway – offering a glimpse into the past. You will have to walk in much further to visit other structures that do not get many tourists because of the distance away from the highway. Some sites are hidden because they have become overgrown with greenery. The raised pedestrian walkway (the sacbe) linking Kabah to Uxmal has ceremonial arches at each end. It is 5 meters wide.

The buildings that have been excavated at Kabah represent the traditional Puuc style of architecture. Some interesting features have been linked to Chenes influence as well. The Puuc style is named after a collection of low hills that start in western Campeche and continue on into the state of Yucatan.

Puuc sites tell a lot about the artistic and cultural endeavors of the Mayans – there are plenty to study. The most common characteristics of the Puuc style includes vault stones shaped like a boot, embellished cornices around columns in doorways, the use of limestone over a core made out of cement and rubble, and long rows of half-columns. The stone mosaics that decorated the upper facades were quite impressive. Some features of the buildings often showed the faces of the sky-serpent – complete with hooked noses.  

The most noted structure of Kabah is the Palace of the Masks (also known as Codz Poop). The façade is covered in hundreds of stone masts that depict the hook-nosed rain god Chac. It was not commonplace to see the repetition of a single set of elements in Mayan art on such a large scale. It is certainly a sight to photograph.




 

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