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nw temple cmf
small acropolis structure 419-3 gary todd
nohoch na steve mellard
south temple south side steve mellard
temple of the masks elelicht
great acropolis ela ginalska
5 storeys east side of structure inah
ambassadors courtyard str 433 & 434 vladmir miguel.
hierglyphic stairway2 carlos pallan
hieroglyphic stairway 1 elelicht
5 storeys mask antonio benavidas
acropolis plaza & grand plaza bgabel
stela 21 ela ginalska
temple of the moon ralf roletscheck
plaza of the stelae structure 420-3 globetrotter19
5 storeys HS1 early excavations inah
puuc patio inah
ambassadors courtyard structure 432 dge
acropolis north side miguel espinosa v.
puuc patio south side miguel espinosa
puuc patio recovered stone frame inah
southwest temple cmf
old sorceress pyramid el agora
nohyaxche google earth
platform of the knives Comision Mexicana Filmaciones
5 storeys c. 1934 inah
acropolis plaza west side ralf roletschek
south temple serpent sculpture steve mellard
nohoch na elelicht
structure 501 stone mosaic frieze steve mellard
circular temple tructure 425 steve mellard
structure 418 jiri chaloupka
structure 512 drone image inah
5 storeys capstone #25 inah
north temple dan himes
temple of the mask paval vorobiev
recently excavated plate inah
south temple and ball court steve mellard
platform of the knives jaime garcia m.
old sorceress group se structure bam barrera
site map antonio benavidas
altar 1 inah
small aropolis structure 419-3 inah
EDZNA- Campeche, (Yucatan), Mexico
Edzna, stylistically and visually, is a very impressive Maya archaeological zone. Located in a valley of the same name, its highest pyramid can be seen well before one enters the zone. Its original name may have been Wakab’ Nal/Wak Pet Chaab’, Land of the Seven Provinces/Sacred Lands. The site is a mixture of several architectural styles spanning over 1500 years from 300 BCE. to 1450 CE. It was an influential political and economic regional capital.
The site features 4 main complexes containing numerous individual palaces, platforms, and residential structures. Several sacbeob (white stone roads), man-made irrigation canals, and reservoirs are located within the zone. Over 32 stelae (carved stone historical markers) have been discovered so far, as well as two hieroglyphic stairways. It covers an area of about 9.5 sq. miles/25 sq. kms, though the core area is easily visited. Recent research has identified a partial royal lineage and an emblem glyph for the site.
Edzna is located about 27 miles/43.5 kilometers east of Campeche, the state capitol. From Campeche travel southeast on the Campeche-China Highway for about 21 miles/34 km on a winding road to the Highway 188 intersection. Then travel east about 6.25 miles/10 km to the turn off for Edzna. Good signage. A new highway is being constructed which will make the journey easier.
HOURS: 8 A.M.-5 P.M. Light show (summer) 8 P.M.
ENTRANCE FEE: U. S. $5.50/90 Pesos. Inquire at kiosk for current light show fee
GUIDES: Inquire at visitor kiosk
SERVICES: Bathrooms, Visitor kiosk, snacks and drinks
ON-SITE MUSEUM: Yes, a small building at the entrance displays stelae and sculpture from the site with a new museum to open in 2024
ACCOMMODATIONS: Campeche is about an hour’s drive away
GPS: 19d 36' 10" N, 90d 13' 53" W
MISC: Include visit with El Tabasqueno, Hochob, Tohkok, Santa Rosa Xtampak, and Dzibilnocac.
HISTORY AND EXPLORATION
Edzna, House of the Itzas, began as a simple settlement in the Middle Preclassic (700-300 BCE). Masonry structures in the Peten style begin to appear in the Late Preclassic (300 BCE-250 CE). Puuc and Chenes style architecture appears by the 6th century as Edzna exerts its greatest political and economic power becoming a regional capital. It had extensive contact with important sites such as Calakmul, Tikal and Piedras Negras. Interactions with both the Gulf Coast area, and Maya Chontal groups have been indicated. A carved, stone frame was discovered that is very similar to one found at Moral Reforma, and could indicate a trade relationship. Some new construction and additions continued into the Post Classic (1150-1500 CE) though towards the end of this timeframe its influence had begun to ebb, and the site was abandoned by 1450 CE.
Ten early rulers are mentioned on several stelae both within Edzna and from other sites such as Naranjo, including a possible reference to three queens. The first ruler identified is Unen K’awiil who reigned c.620-638 CE. Siyaj Chan K'awiil (c. 636–649) was the next ruler. His wife, Ix Jut Chanek/Kanek, was a high-ranking royal figure who used as a personal title an emblem glyph of Itzan, a site located in the Peten. It has been suggested that she was a co-ruler, and later ruled in her own right. She is possibly depicted on Altar 1 and Stela 20.
By the end of the 7th century Edzna was under the influence of the great king of Calakmul, Yuknoom Chʼeen II as indicated on Hieroglyphic Stairway 1 and other monuments. Stela 19 at Edzna, dated to 692 CE, depicts ruler Janaahb’ Yook K’inich standing over a defeated warrior tentatively identified from the important site of Coba in Quintana Roo State (Yucatan Peninsula).
Chan Chuwaaj dedicated Stelae 1-3 in 711 and 721 CE which portray him victoriously standing over captives. Edzna’s fortunes may have changed soon after this however, as no new monuments have been located for a 70 -year period which some researchers have described as a sculptural hiatus.
In 790 CE ruler Aj Koht Chowa’ Naahkan is shown on Stela 5 commemorating a Period Ending. The style of the text and his attire could indicate a dynastic intrusion originating from the Gulf Coast area.
The last known ruler of Edzna has been partially deciphered as Ajan, and ruled c.869. His name is mentioned on Hieroglyphic Stairway 2 along with his wife, Ix K‘in/K‘ihna‘ Ajaw, who may have co-ruled.
The first mention of Edzna was by Teobert Maler in 1887 who was exploring in the Chenes region, though he did not take the opportunity to make his way to the site. In 1906 workers from the nearby Hontun Hacienda reported the site to the local government. Further investigations were delayed by the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920).
Edzna was formally reported on in 1927 by Nazario Quintana Bello, a scholar and archaeological investigator for the Mexican Ministry of Education. The site was visited by Sylvanus Morley of the Carnegie Institution in the same year, as well as researchers from Mexico: José Reygadas Vértiz, Enrique Juan Palacios and Federico Mariscal. Alberto Ruz L’Huillier of INAH conducted investigations in 1943, while Raul Pavon Abreu began excavations and consolidations in 1959. George Andrews compiled the first topographic map in 1967. There followed Román Piña Chan (1970, 1972), Ray Matheny of the New World Archaeological Foundation (1971-74), and Luis Millet Cámara (INAH1986-88). Antonio Benavides Castillo conducted several investigations and restorations between 1988-2005. Karl Herbert Mayer produced a detailed report in 2004. Excavations and restorations have continued under INAH and international partners to the present.
The structures visitors see today are all within the core area of the site, and were mostly built between 750-950 CE. The site is set on an axis about 10 degrees east of North. Numerous, smaller architectural groups surround the core area with several exhibiting masonry structures set on raised platforms. An extensive system of hydraulic works was undertaken in the surrounding lowland area, especially to the south of the core area, including canals, dams, and embankments. Recent excavations (Oct 2023) for the visitor service building unearthed a tomb containing a funerary offering, made up of three plates and various ceramics arranged around the skeleton of an individual.
One enters the site directly into the Grand Plaza between the House of the Knives and the Acropolis. The huge plaza measures about 538 feet/164 meters x 303 feet/92 meters.
The House of the Knives, Structure 431, is located on the north side of the plaza, and is set on a low platform of around 263 feet/80 meters x 115 feet/35 meters. It has stairways on all four sides, and is named for a cache of flint knives discovered during excavation. At either end are the structural remains of vaulted rooms with columned entrances that lead into inner chambers. The middle section of the platform consists of foundations of several chambers. The west side of the structure forms the east side of the Courtyard of the Ambassadors.
The name of the Courtyard of the Ambassadors was given to the plaza in recognition of the international effort to restore the site. The plaza encompasses about 968 square feet/900 square meters, and is ringed by several structures with three, circular, low altars in the center. A fourth rectangular altar is located in the northeast corner of the plaza, and has a stone serpent head placed on top.
The north side of the courtyard features a low, stepped platform base, Structure 435. The west side is taken up by a long, low platform, Structure 434, that features two partially restored structures. The north side of the platform features a single chamber structure that may have had a corbeled vault. The south end of this platform houses a single, masonry chamber entered between four columns.
The south side of the plaza has three structures that share a joined platform. The southwest structure, Structure 433, is single chamber structure entered between four columns. Next to this structure is a raised pass-through ramp. On the east side of the ramp is a small platform which attaches to a structure, Structure 432, that takes up the southeast side of the plaza. This structure is partially restored and exhibits a corbel-vaulted passageway that leads east towards an unusual two-tiered circular structure.
This intriguing, circular structure, Structure 425, has a base diameter of around 38 feet/11.7 meters. It rises up on three low tiers to a final circular temple/chamber. There is a north facing stairway that leads up to the temple with a single entryway. A small, rectangular enclosure is fixed within the south side of the temple. Its purpose has not been fully determined, though it is thought to have had an astronomical function or perhaps associations with the wind god, Kukulcan. A structure of the same orientation and similar dimensions appears at Uxmal. The Edzna structure is built against the west side of the Nohoch Na structure.
The huge structure known as the Nohoch Na commands the entire west side of the Grand Plaza. It is an extremely long platform base about 443 feet/135 meters in length, 98.5 feet/30 meters wide, and around 29.5 feet/9 meters in height with full length stairways on both the east and west sides. Running across the top of the platform are two structures separated by a mid-point passageway. Each structure has two galleries divided by a longitudinal wall containing 12 or so entryways. This structure seems to have held a civic or administrative function and is nearly identical to the equally impressive Structure 44 seen at Dzibilchaltun, and to the recently restored, smaller Structure C4 at Kuluba.
There are several small altar/platforms located within the Grand Plaza. Two short sacbeob lead across the plaza from either end of the Nohoch Na and converge on the Acropolis Complex that forms the east end of the plaza. This huge complex has a broad, central stairway that leads up four tiers to the Acropolis Plaza.
The complex is built atop a massive 19 feet/6 meter high platform that measures over 525 feet/160 meters square. The complex, like most Maya structures, exhibits numerous construction phases. The Acropolis Plaza itself is entered through a narrow passageway between two partially restored structures that share the same low platform. Both structures are at the Acropolis Plaza level and are entered between round columns or pilasters. The structure on the north side contains a Temascal/sweatbath.
The largest structure located at the Great Acropolis is on the east side of the plaza and is the imposing Temple of the Five Storeys. This is an impressive five-tiered structure with numerous vaulted rooms and a towering roof comb. The structure measures around 197 feet/60 meters per side and reaches a height of about 103 feet/31.50 meters. There are multiple stairways that appear on all four sides of the structure. The main stairway leads up from the plaza to a multi-chamber temple entered between two pilasters. Two passageways are evident beneath the stairway on the first and second tier. A perforated roof comb of 19 feet/6 meters crowns the temple. The south and east sides have recently been excavated and restored.
There are 22 chambers that make up the Temple of the Five Storeys. An additional 5 chambers are incorporated into the temple that is situated on the summit of the structure. In two of the rooms painted inscriptions have been discovered on interior stuccoed vault capstones. Several of the chambers are entered between either one or two round columns. An Early Classic (250-600 CE) pyramid has been revealed beneath the final construction phase which dates to the Terminal Classic (900-1100 CE).
At the base of the central stairway are four risers that contain glyph blocks forming a rare hieroglyphic stairway and is known as Hieroglyphic Stairway 1. There are 86 blocks in all. Most were found buried under rubble at the base of the pyramid and have been reconstructed by archaeologists with a recovered date of 652 CE. A second hieroglyphic stairway, Hieroglyphic Stairway 2, was recently discovered in one of the numerous chambers, Chamber 9. Other plain stairways are located on the north, south, and east sides of the structure.
An interesting architectural design is found on the north, south, and east sides of the structure. This is a series of large curved sections of stonework termed balustrades that flank the stairways and were added on in the Terminal Classic (900-1100 CE). This rather unique design pattern may also be evident at the site of Ake.
The north side of the structure has the remains of large mosaic masks representing the solar deity Kinich Ahau, and are located on the third tier flanking the stairway. The overall architecture reminds one of the stunning, multi-level palace at Sayil.
Attached to the south side of the Temple of the Five Storeys is a three-level pyramidal platform. The summit incorporates two separate, parallel chambers. An altar is located between the chambers. It is accessed by a wide plaza-facing stairway, and reaches a height of around 23 feet/7 meters.
In the center of the courtyard is a low platform known as the Solar Platform, and is thought to have been used for astronomical and other ritual purposes. It displays steps on its east side. The platform sits on the same east-west axis as the Temple of the Five Storeys, the Nohoch Na, and Structure 501 (farther to the west), which is about 102 degrees east of north. The southside of the plaza contains two structures, The Temple of the Moon, and the Southwest Temple.
The Temple of the Moon is a seven-tiered rectangular platform measuring around 131 feet/40 meters in length by 9 feet/30 meters wide, with a height of around 26 feet/8 meters. A broad, plaza facing, central stairway leads up to a three-chamber temple through entryways between three pilasters.
The Southwest Temple anchors that corner of the plaza. It is a rather odd-looking pyramidal structure built atop a low platform. Apparently, there was some creative license employed during restoration. A central stairway leads to the summit structure. A central portico gives access to three interior chambers. The platform base extends downward to the Grand Plaza level.
Across the plaza to the north is The North Temple which incorporates a mixture of architectural styles. The earliest substructure dates back to the Early Classic (250-600 CE). The multi-level structure reaches a height of around 46 feet/14 meters. A broad plaza stairway leads to a small terrace. A second smaller, central stairway leads to the second level that houses several chambers. On the far ends of the front of the structure there appear two smaller stairways that reach to the second level. A third level was a late modification and exhibits a ruined temple structure with standing pilasters that provided entrances to multiple chambers. The structure shows the remains of corbeled vaulted side chambers. The back of the structure exhibits a small stairway exhibiting the same curved balustrades as seen at the Temple of the Five Storeys. A small annex is attached to the east side of the structure facing the plaza. In front of the structure is a low “C” shaped platform.
On the northwest corner of the plaza is a five-tiered truncated pyramid known as the Northwest Temple. A central stairway leads to the summit containing a three chambered structure. A side stairway leads down to a small enclosed courtyard known as the Puuc Patio, and ringed by some smaller structures on the east, north and west sides. The south side of the patio faces onto the back side of the North Temple. A stone frame that features glyphs, deities, and celestial decorations was discovered within one of the structures. A similar sculptured monument is also located at Moral Reforma some 144 miles/232 km to the southwest. A wide, north-facing stairway leads down from the Puuc Patio to the Grand Plaza level.
The south side of the Grand Plaza is bordered by the Ball Court and The South Temple. The South Temple is a five-tiered pyramidal structure with a Puuc style (Late Classic 600-900 CE) two-chamber summit temple. The platform base measures 120 feet/36.5 meters, with a width of 89 feet/ 27meters, and a height of 36 feet/11 meters, and is constructed in the Peten style (Early Classic 250-600 CE). A broad, central stairway on the south side of the pyramid lead up to the temple. At the foot of the stairway is a small altar with a stone serpent head similar to that seen in the Courtyard of the Ambassadors. The Grand Plaza side of the structure features a wide apron that extends from the plaza level to the temple structure.
The Ball Court, Structures 420-1 through 420-4, is oriented on a north/south axis, and is semi-enclosed. The length of the playing field is about 167 feet/51 meters, with the alley being around 16.5 feet/ 5 meters wide. Small stairways lead to the top of the two parallel structures that each contain a long, single chamber entered between rectangular pilasters. There are the remains of a ball court ring still embedded into one of the sloping walls. Smaller chambers with columned entryways are incorporated into the structure on the plaza level.
Located to the south behind the Ball Court is a smaller plaza, Plaza of the Stelae, and features several structures. The north side of the plaza features a structure, Structure 420-3, set on a low platform that spans the space between the Ball Court and the Small Acropolis. The platform measures 72 feet/22 meters by 23 feet/7 meters. A single chamber structure is entered between four columns, which once featured a corbeled vault.
The Temple of the Masks, an Early Classic Structure, is located on the south side of the plaza, The structure measures 90 feet/27.40 meters in length by 54 feet/16.50 meters in width and has an average height of 18 feet/5.50 meters. It is named for the two modeled, stucco sculptured masks of the Sun God, K’inich Ahau, that flank a stairway that leads to a ruined summit structure. The masks measure about 10 feet/3 meters across and nearly 3 feet/1 meter high. They are of high quality, and are thought to represent the Sun God at dawn and at sunset. They are bracketed by apparent astronomical elements.
Structure 418 is set on the west end of the Stelae Plaza. It is a low platform with a plaza-facing set of steps that leads to the remains of a single chamber structure. The platform measures about 62 feet/19 meters by 39 feet/12 meters with an overall height of 6.5 feet/2 meters. A second plaza extends to the west behind this structure with the South Temple located on the northside of the plaza.
The Small Acropolis is on the east side of the Stelae Plaza, and is adjacent to the Great Acropolis. This area has been nicely restored. It is a complex consisting of a square platform with four structures situated around an interior courtyard, with a stairway on the west facing the Plaza of the Stelae. The platform base measures about 230 feet/70 meters square with a height of around 16.5 feet/5 meters. This is the oldest complex at the site dating to c.300 CE, and originally displayed a Peten style of architecture though later modified. Many of the site’s stelae (carved stone historical markers) were relocated here during the Post Classic (1100-1500 CE), and set upon a low platform base in front of the west-facing stairway. They have since been moved for protection and preservation.
The plaza facing stairway leads up to the Acropolis Courtyard. Structure 419-2 is on the west side of the courtyard, and is the first structure encountered. It is of a tiered, pyramidal design with stairways on all four sides. A single chamber temple at the summit is accessed by an east facing stairway. The remains of two stucco masks have been detected on the west side of the structure. The platform base measures roughly 58 feet/ 17.5 meters per side.
The Temple of the Reliefs, Structure 419-3 is located on the east side of the courtyard, and is the main structure of the group. The pyramid base is roughly 69 feet/21 meters x 82 feet/25 meters. It is named for the anthropomorphic stairway blocks that are set into the courtyard facing stairway. The decorated blocks include representations of human figures, jaguars, birds, and geometrical designs. The stairway rises up several tiers to a single chamber summit temple. Items recovered from the structure include a jade pendant, a cylindrical stone with the relief of a Maya dignitary, and numerous fragments of anthropomorphic censers. Stela 17 was discovered in front of the structure stairway.
Structure 419-1 is located on the north side of the platform. It has a rectangular platform base crowned by a single chamber accessed between two pilasters. The platform base measures roughly 74 feet/22.5 meters x 41 feet/12.5 meters. Excavations have revealed an earlier Late Preclassic sub-structure whose stairway is flanked by large stucco masks.
Structure 419-4 is set on the south side of the courtyard. It is a multi-tiered, rectangular platform base with a single stairway. The platform base, roughly 74 feet/22.5 x 52.5 feet/16 meters, houses a long, single-chamber temple.
A large pyramid, Structure 501, is located roughly 164 feet/50 meters to the west of the Nohoch Na structure. It has been partially restored. A broad central stairway leads up to a ruined summit structure. The same curved balustrades seen at the Temple of the Five Storeys is also present at this structure.
A sacbe leads out to the northwest from Structure 501 about .5 miles/.8 km to a small plaza containing several structures known as the Old Sorceress Group. The current pathway leads past Structure 512.
Structure 512 is composed of two chambers and has recently seen further excavation and restoration (Oct. 2023). It bears similarities to the patio-gallery type structures seen at Chichén Itzá which were used for religious ceremonies and for the deposit of offerings. It sits on the north end of a raised platform with steps on the east side. The south-facing chamber is entered between two columns. The interior chamber also shows two columns, both sets of columns once supporting a roof of perishable material. Excavations in the interior chamber revealed a sunken crypt with a small set of steps. No remains were found
The Old Sorceress Group comprises four structures set around a central plaza. The main structure is a large, partially restored pyramid located on the west side of the plaza known as the Temple of the Witch, Structure 641. The pyramidal base measures around 230 feet/70 meters per side, and incorporates nine tiers that reaches a height of approximately 79 feet/ 24 meters. A central stairway leads up to a ruined, single-chamber summit temple. Only the lower plaza-facing side of the structure has been restored.
The east side of the plaza has two structures at either end. The northeast structure is a ruined, low platform with a plaza-facing stairway. It shows remains of a masonry super-structure. The southeast structure is of a similar nature and condition. Both exhibit sloping walls. A large altar/platform is located in the center of the plaza.
The name of the Old Sorceress Group comes from an ancient Maya legend concerning an old woman, in the guise of the ancient Moon Goddess, who looked after a child who possessed extraordinary abilities. There are numerous versions of the story among the Maya, both past and present, including a story in the book of The Popol Vuh that relates to the grandmother of the mythical Hero Twins; Hunahpu and Ixbalanque.
A small complex known as “The Fortress” is located around 1 mile/1.6 km to the south of the core area. It consists of several unrestored platform mounds surrounded by wetlands interspersed by isolated areas of savanna and natural elevations. The area features an extensive system of hydraulic works including canals, dams, reservoirs, and embankments which controlled flooding and made available large areas for agriculture.
A complex named Nohyaxche is located about 1 mile/1.6 km north of the Great Acropolis in the center of an agricultural field. The main structure is a huge pyramidal mound whose base measures roughly 188 feet/55 meters x 199 feet/61 meters. A large, two-tiered platform extends to the south towards the Great Acropolis. This platform measures around 150 feet/46 meters x 135 feet/41 meters. A smaller, two-tiered platform is seen attached to the northeast corner of the pyramid mound. A single mound occupies the west-central side of the small platform.
To the southwest is a complex identified with the Hacienda Hontun, about 3 miles/5 km distant. The complex is set on an elevated area and consists of two mounds about 19.5 feet/6 meters in height. Several platforms are also associated with this complex.
There are many other architectural groups, some quite large, located within the archaeological zone, mostly in an unexcavated state. See the site map below by INAH archaeologist Antonio Benavidas for a better understanding.
Edzna has a strong potential to further expand the knowledge of the site's history through excavations, and to one day enhance the visitor's experience to more restored areas.
updated november 2023
old sorceress group ne structure bam barrera
temple of the five storeys dan himes.
temple of the masks steve mellard
5 storeys south & east sides inah
small acropolis entry stairs & str 419-2 jiri chaloupka
structure 512 crypt inah
stela 20 adam jones phd
small acropolis north structure steve mellard
drone image inah
structure 501 vladmix
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structure 512 steve mellard
5 storeys ela ginalska
ball court steve mellard
site map inah
temple of the 5 storeys taab scoob