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Uxmal ("thrice built") is a Maya city located in northwestern Yucatán south of the range of hills known as the Puuc. The site was occupied in the eighth century and reached its maximum florescence between about 850 and 925, shortly after which it, along with many other sites in the Puuc district, was abandoned. Epigraphic research has revealed that Uxmal was governed around 900 by a ruler, "Lord Chac," who took the name of the Yucatecan Maya rain god, and has demonstrated political contacts between Uxmal and Chichén Itzá.

Uxmal's central civic-ceremonial area is defined by a low masonry wall and covers approximately one-half mile north-south by less than one-half mile east-west, with smaller residential structures lying outside. Except for three small Chenes-style buildings, Uxmal's major edifices are superlative examples of Puuc architecture, featuring a construction technology based on lime concrete cores and fine cut-masonry facades. Long, horizontal buildings display complex arrays of precarved stone mosaic elements assembled to form motifs such as step frets, simple and sawtoothed lattices, engaged colonnettes, long-snouted "rain god" masks, and human figures.

Uxmal is known for magnificent edifices such as the Pigeon Group, named for a distinctive openwork roof comb on the structure called the House of Pigeons; the Pyramid of the Magician (or Adivino), a multistage pyramid-temple constructed in five separate campaigns; and the ball court, whose inner platform walls bore feathered serpent sculptures and hieroglyphic rings. Uxmal's most striking architectural monuments are the 328-foot-long range building, or "palace," known as the House of the Governor, perhaps "Lord Chac's" royal residence and administrative center, and the Nunnery Quadrangle, a large compound bordered on four sides by elaborately sculptured, multiroom range buildings set at different levels.

See alsoMaya, the; Mesoamerica.


Marta Foncerrada De Molina, La escultura arquitectónica de Uxmal (1965).

H. E. D. Pollock, The Puuc: An Architectural Survey of the Hill Country of Yucatán and Northern Campeche, Mexico (1980).

Jeff Karl Kowalski, The House of the Governor, a Maya Palace at Uxmal, Yucatán, Mexico (1987).

Additional Bibliography

Barrera Rubio, Alfredo, and José Huchím Herrera. Architectural Restoration at Uxmal, 1986–1987 = Restauración arquitectónica en Uxmal, 1986–1987. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, Dept. of Anthropology, 1990.

Dunning, N.P. Lords of the Hills: Ancient Maya Settlement in the Puuc Region, Yucatán, Mexico. Madison, WI: Prehistory Press, 1992.

Schmidt, Peter J., Mercedes de la Garza, and Enrique Nalda, eds. Maya. New York: Rizzoli, 1998.

                                  Jeff Karl Kowalski

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