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palace north view steve mellard
palace portal detail hjpd
Santa Rosa Xtampak (“In front of the wall” in Yucatek Maya) is an important site located in the northern part of the state of Campeche, due east from the capital city of the same name. It was one of the most important regional capitals of the Maya Chenes area, and as such has altars, dated stelae, sculpture, and impressive architecture. At least one sacbe (raised white stone road) linking two of the complexes has been discovered.
The site encompasses 3 sq miles/9 square kilometers, though the core area is easily visited. Estimates indicate that it controlled a surrounding region of 144 sq miles/400 sq kms, with the core area having a population of 10,000 at its peak. It is constructed atop a leveled hill entailing a 10-15 minute steep hike up a rough, rutted path. The core area is tightly packed and includes at least 10 interconnecting plazas with numerous courtyards and terraces containing pyramids, palaces, temples, and platforms.
The Chenes architectural style is found in a general area between the Northern Yucatan and the Peten region. It appears between 600-900 A.D., and is mainly characterized by entryways surrounded by a decoration of the earth monster on the main facade. Intricate mosaics also adorn the structures while many of the sites incorporate the Rio Bec (earlier) and Puuc (later) styles.
From Merida the site is reached traveling south on Federal Highway 180 to Federal Highway 261 past the Puuc Hill sites and on through Bolonchen. At km 79 turn east onto a paved road 5.3 miles/32 kms to the site.
HOURS: 8 AM-5 PM, all week
ENTRANCE FEE: U.S. $2.50/45 Pesos
SERVICES: Bathrooms, gift shop
ON-SITE MUSEUM: No
ACOMODATIONS: Day trip from Merida or Campeche, hostels in Bolonchen and Hopelchen
GPS: 19d 46’ 20” N, 89d 35’ 50” W
MISC: Best visited in the dry season Nov-Mar
HISTORY AND EXPLORATION
Ceramic evidence suggests the site was settled as early as the Late Pre Classic (300 B.C.-250 A.D.). The structures one sees today date from the beginning of the Late Classic (600-900 A.D.). There have been a number of stelae (upright carved stone slabs) recovered that have helped to date the site. Little information has been deciphered to help in identifying its rulers and relationships with other sites, though it has been established that the site was an important capital of the Chenes area.
The site was first reported on by those intrepid explorers extraordinaire, John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood in 1841. There followed other explorers/researchers such as Teobert Maler in 1891, Harry Pollock 1936, George Brainerd, Ralph Roys and Karl Ruppert in 1949, and George Andrews 1969/1987. More recent excavations and consolidations have been undertaken by Erwin Heine under Antonio Benavidas Castillo of INAH.
The core area is composed of several interconnecting plazas clustered about a large pyramid platform. The plaza to the northwest of the pyramid platform, here called the Palace Plaza, contains a number of impressive structures.
The most important, and indeed the most unusual, is the Palace that fronts the west side of the Palace Plaza. This grand, three story structure contains 44 rooms, many of which are joined together as suites. The structure is in the form of a truncated “C”. A capstone located within the Palace has a late inscription commemorating a Katun ending dated June 24, 948 A.D. (10.6.0.0.0).
The first level contains 27 chambers. Most of these chambers are organized from two to four room suites complete with benches that could have been used as beds. The four-room suites at the northern and southern ends have sculptured panels centered between the doorways to the rear rooms, and there are groups of three inset colonnettes on the west and east sides of these doorways. The central colonnette of both groups is covered with relief carvings. The doorjambs of the outer rooms show recessed panels and capitals with Puuc style profiles.
There are two interior stairways that lead up from the second to the third level. This design is rather scarce in the Maya area. The stairways provided access to the second level which offered it a private space, and is thought to have been the residences of the royal family. In addition, two, steep stairways on the west side of the structure lead from a courtyard up to the second level which contains twelve chambers. The 2 chambers on the front-facing corners are stand-alone structures separated by a terrace from the main group. They appear to be temples as opposed to residences, and have false stairways in the Rio Bec style that lead down to the plaza, such as seen at Chicanna.
The third level is thought to have been a ritual/ceremonial area for the ruler and priests. It contains 5 rooms and was accessed through a stand-alone portal surrounded by a huge zoomorphic mask. A central, monumental stairway rising up from the plaza leads to the portal. Roof combs once adorned the third level structure and both temples on the second level. Very nice!
The north end of the Palace Plaza contains three structures of note. The northern most structure is known as the Building with the Serpent Mouth Façade. This building is noted for a huge representation of the Earth Monster, also known as Itzamna the creator god, which appears in a crouching position. It surrounds an entryway that covers the central façade of the structure, very similar to the one seen at Hormiguero. One enters the inner chamber through the open jaws of the deity. There are only 3 chambers remaining of once was a larger structure. The rear of the structure has a central stairway that once led up to the now ruined second level. The stairway is in the interesting form of a centipede.
Forming the east side of the plaza is the Red House. Maler reported finding the exterior walls of this structure painted red, hence its name. It, and the adjacent building, are situated less than 9 feet/3 meters south of the Building with the Serpent Mask Facade. They form an unusual pair since their rear walls are separated by a space less than 3 feet/1 meter in width forming an alleyway running 46 feet/14 meters. The Red House has three rooms in line, with doorways on the west side and a partial corbeled vault, while the adjacent building, which is “L” shaped, faces both west and south. The lower walls of both buildings are similar since both feature plain walls with groups of good sized colonnetts flanking the entryways. Both of these are single story constructions.
On the north west side of the plaza is a single-story structure known as the House of the Stepped Frets. It has three entrances that look east across the plaza. It once had a corbeled vaulted roof.
The Cuartel is a complex to the east of the Palace Plaza, with structures situated around a large plaza. It is entered from the Palace Plaza through a structure having an open passageway between the two. The plaza measures 144 feet/44 meters by 174 feet/53 meters.
The north structure, which has been nicely restored, contains six chambers divided by a central stairway to a ruined second floor. The central entryways on each side of the stairway are flanked by stacked, stylized masks that extend up from ground level moulding to the medial level moulding. This is a rather unusual element and reflects Puuc architectural influence. A similar structure appears on the southeast side of the Cuartel, also with a stairway to a ruined second floor. The corbeled vaults of the front of this structure have collapsed.
The South-East Quadrangle is a small group of structures representing a later transitional phase centered around a courtyard. The Puuc style of architecture is quite evident here. The northern structure is separate from the other connected structures, and allows access into the courtyard. A series of sculpted cylinders was found in this structure and have been dated to 800-900 A.D. All the structures in this group once contained corbeled vaulted chambers. A ball court is located in between the South-East Quadrangle and the Cuartel.
The South Plaza is a large complex containing 10 ruined structures dominated by a pyramidal platform known as Star Hill. This complex is the oldest and largest at the site with the pyramid featuring megalithic steps that leads to its ruined summit. Eight Stelae have been found on the large, raised plaza behind the pyramid, ranging in date from 646 A.D. to a very late 911 A.D. This area has received little restoration, and is mostly overgrown with vegetation.
Behind the Palace is a courtyard having a few structures of interest. The first is a small pyramidal platform on the north side with steps on three sides. The west side of this structure abuts onto a single chambered structure with the entryways flanked by colonnetts. A bench is located inside the chamber. On the west side of the courtyard is a structure known as Itzamna House.
Itzamna House has a central passageway that is flanked by mosaic designs of the Earth Monster. There is a single chamber on either side. It was roofed by a corbeled vault, now collapsed with the rubble removed.
The passageway leads west out to a number of complexes centered about small plazas. The Southwest Group has some nice standing architecture. The other groups are named the North Group; Northwest Group; and West group. These along with other structures and groups will be reported on at a future date.
site plan hjpd
red house hjpd
cuartel east structure steve mellard
palace south view hjpd
stela 2 hjpd
southwest group hjpd.
southwest group steve mellard
cuartel north structure hjpd
star hill pyramid hjpd
southeast quadrangle hjpd
itzamna house steve mellard
site plan inah
palace portal detail steve mellard
house of the stepped frets steve mellard
building of the serpent mouth hjpd
building of the serpent mouth steve mellard
palace site plan hjpd
palace west view steve mellard
red house adjacent structure steve mellard
cuartel north structure steve mellard
building of the serpent mouth rear strvr mellard
southwest group hjpd
SANTA ROSA XTAMPAK.
palace courtyard steve mellard
palace courtyard steve mellard
XTAMPAK-Campeche, (Yucatan), Mexico
cuartel north structure detail hjpd
itzamna house mask detail steve mellard
southeast quadrangle steve mellard
cuartel entrance steve mellard
cuartel east structure steve mellard
southeast quadrangle steve mellard
cuartel south structure steve mellard
palace east view steve mellard