A rough-hewn tapestry of color at the heart of the Yucatan Peninsular, Campeche delivers a delectable helping of Mayan history with triadic pyramids, Stelae groupings and great cities concealed beneath jungle canopies. Calakmul, close to the Mexicao-Guatemala border reigns supreme as the largest continuous Mayan site, however Edzna, settled beside the Northern boundary of Campeche comes into its own for its distinct Puuc style of architecture.
Less than 56 km North of the great ruins of Calakmul, Edzna is often bypassed by tourists, for few even know of its existence. Engulfed by sleepy forests and low lying plains, Edzna too is completely isolated from modern civilization. Built around 600 B.C the great multi-level complex spans an area around 17 square miles – a close contender behind Calakmul, as one of the Mayan Peninsula's largest preserved sites. Edzna bears strong affiliation with Chichen Itza, for it is thought the “House of Itza” may have preceded the Mayans of the Yucatan, perhaps contributing to the foundations of Edzna itself.
The expansive “Great Plaza” represents the city core of Edzna, centered around a huge, framed ball court with long promenade platforms spanning the length of each wall. Platform of Knives occupies a slightly higher elevation - so named due to a hoard of flint knives found within several of the alcoves beneath. At the helm of Great Plaza sits Gran Acrópolis, a huge multi-level platform upon which sit several palatial structures. At 31 meters in height, Edificio de los Cinco Pisos (The Building of Five Stories) dwarfs all others nearby; its peak alone rising over 10 meters. The Building of Five Stories is somewhat unique to the complex, for it is the only temple structure to have been erected in stages. Inscriptions found among the many petroglyphs at the base of Building A date back to around 672 B.C – a feature leading experts to believe the pyramid's construction took around 500 years.
Deities representative of the sun and moon are renownedly central to ancient Mayan ritual, however none are celebrated quite as prominently as Kinich Ahau, the Sun God of 16th Century Yucatec origin. At Chichen Itza, his form can be found adorning many of the temple walls – usually depicted as a wizened old man, preaching to his disciples. Within the Small Acropolis compound, the Temple of the Stone Masks casts the powerful deity in a very different light – his facial features taking the form of a young noble prince, seemingly before he assumed power as ruler over “Land of The Sunrise”. His older character, replete with squinted eye and single bared tooth is often mistaken for the “upper God” Itzamna, also resemblant of a jaguar from the opposite aspect.
Beyond the charismatic architecture and big Mayan accomplishments, Edzna offers a glimpse of an ancient city strategically mapped down to the last adobe. In the far North East sits Nohochná, the administrative and cultural center for the complex. With its four huge halls and stone carved pews, one can well imagine a court being assembled here. A few minutes walk South of the Gran Acrópolis will bring you to Temple of the Relief Stairways, the largest at the site at a height of 40 meters. With spectacular views across the entire complex of Edzna and the Campeche landscape beyond, Temple of the Relief is well worth the ten minute climb!