1. Chichén Itza
2. Palenque
3. Yaxchilán
4. Bonampak
5. Lagartero
6. Iazapa
7. Kaminaljuyú
8. Piedras Negras
9. Tikal
10. Uaxactun
11. Copan
12. Cuello
13. Tulúm; 14. Coba; 15. Dzibilchaltun; 16. Uxmal

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After my description of each city-site is a more detailed discussion (with some photos) of city layouts and architecture from the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

1. Chichén Itza in Mexico's Yucatán has the famous huge pyramid of the sun. On the MayaPage I've linked to some spring '95 Eqinox ceremony photos that show a special relationship of the pyramid's geometry with light and shadows on that day of the year. Chichén Itza became the capital of the Yucatán Maya after the end of the Classic period. They organized a trading empire (1000-1521) that stretched from the Gulf Coast to Honduras.

2. Palenque stands at the foothills of the Chiapas highlands. It was built as a portal to the underworld in the 8th century, where Maya kings might defeat the Lord Death and return in dreams and visions. In the observatory tower at the center of Palenque palace, small portals were aligned to enable the sighting of Venus throughout the year at its first appearance on the horizon. This was the signal to begin war.

3. Yaxchilán, 4. Bonampak, 9. Tikal, 10. Uaxactun and 11. Copan were lowland or valley cities, abandoned for unknown reasons with the fall of classic Mayan civilization, around 1,000 A.D. These cities were overgrown with rain forest jungle. Lavish murals were found at Bonampak. Southeast of Bonampak is the Lacandon jungle, misnamed by the Spaniards after the name of a lake in it, where, on an island, the last unconquered Maya (Chol and Tzeltal) held out, refusing surrender and refusing Christianity. The Lacandon jungle area is the site of Mayan controversy today with the Mexican government, it remains the last rain forest in Mexico, but is being logged at a rapid rate.

12. Cuello is the oldest excavated Mayan settlement, dating from 2500 B.C. Belize sponsored the summer excavation of a early Mayan rock cave site near an area close to Cuello, threatened with development. Journals of dig participants are on-line..

13. Tulúm was a seacoast fortress and port city for the vast trading empire the Maya established, perhaps allied with the Olmec civilization to the north. At Tulúm, a small temple arch just frames the rising sun at Winter solstice, when the viewer is seated in a stone throne built into the wall surrounding Tulúm. In the Mimi II curriculum, (link at end of page) Tulúm is where the smugglers ship out artifacts, and where C.J. meets archaeologist Victor Segovia and learns about Mayan astronomy.

14. Coba--This is a Yucatan peninsula jungle-buried city, but local Mayans always knew of it. It is the jumping-off point in the Mimi II curriculum (link at end fo page) for discovery of the undiscovered Site U which is being looted. Coba in reality is famed for a missing king, Chac Balam (Red Jaguar) who disappeared after age 30, with no stone records marking his death--very unusual for a Mayan ruler. Probably mens he was captured by enemies.

11. Copán was one of the largest Mayan cities, and is located furthest south in the old civilization, in Honduras. At Copán is the best-preserved of the ancient sacred ball courts, and a temple with the longest stone inscription in the western hemisphere--some of the most extensive and best material giving promise of decoding the hieroglyphic language. In Mimi II, (link at end of page) one of the sidebar scientific expeditions visits David Stuart, the youth who began translating Maya glyphics at age 9, at Copán.

Among the strongest centers of Mayan cultural survival now are villages in the highland Mexican state of Chiapas, in the mountainous area just west of sites 2, 5 and 6 on the map. Mayans form population majorities in parts of Guatemala and Honduras, whose governments--with U.S. backing and CIA connivance- -have treated them very harshly. Mayan political organization is hampered by the fact that the people speak more than 11 dialects which are mutually unintelligable--as different as French and Italian languages.

Big complex map -- of many, many more Mayan ruins sites on McNelly's nice Mayasite (elsewhere whole site is linked-to). Map takes quite a while to load. You can download it for local use


Cities & architecture--Canadian Museum of Civilization focuses much of their discussion on Guatemala's Tikal.

Maya Environment--Political, altitude, rainfall and temperature maps showing this area's environment.

Maya timeline--From 11,000 B.C. until Mayan woman Rigoberta Menchu wins Nobel Peace Prize in 1992.

Detail map of southern Guatemala highlands-- 106K, loads very slowly, somewhat larger than the screen; may be downloaded. The Lake Aititlan area where the Mayan artists of T'zutuhil Gallery live (San Pedro de Laguna and Solola) is shown. The fictionalized town in Gonzalez' Mayan Life novel is in this region. The mountainous areas of Guatemala are where the majority of the Mayan village farmers live -- it is this area that has been subjected to the greatest government terrorism and killings since 1980. The northern half that I cut off to reduce filesize has some highlands, but is mostly the Petén jungle, continuous with the Mayan Lacandon jungle in Mexico. The Guatemala jungle contains the major ancient Mayan city sites, including the outstandingly interesting Tikal (see sites map above).


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Page prepared by Paula Giese.Text and graphics copyright 1995

Last updated: Friday, July 05, 1996 - 9:10:58 AM