Ek' Balam, the Ancient Mayan City in the Yucatan Peninsula

The walled city of Ek Balam enthralls visitors with what has been preserved of its beauty as well as the attractions that are located in its immediate vicinity, such as the cenote.

Ek' Balam, the Ancient Mayan City in the Yucatan Peninsula
Ek' Balam: The Ancient Mayan World in the Southeast of Mexico. Credit: Yucatan

This walled city of the ancient Mayan World was found in the middle of the Yucatan Peninsula, in the southeast of Mexico. Its beauty and the attractions that surround Ek' Balam, like the cenote with its nice turquoise water, make it hard for visitors to leave.

Ek Balam Archaeological Zone

In the middle of the jungle of the state of Yucatan is Ek' Balam, a pre-Columbian city in the Mayan area whose majestic structures, decorated with carved stones, make it one of the most important archaeological sites in the state.

It has characteristic elements of the most important Mayan cities, with monumental architecture that combines styles such as Río Bec, Puuc, Chen, Palenque, or Usumacinta, but with details that make it unique, which suggests its commercial sense and exchange of ideas with other places due to its strategic geographic location, close to Uxmal and Chichén Itzá, but older than both.

Located some 186 kilometers from Merida, the state capital, on the highway to Cancun, it is practically halfway between the two destinations, 30 kilometers north of the city of Valladolid and 2 kilometers from the town of Ek Balam, in a region with a warm sub-humid climate.

From the administrative center of the archaeological zone, which is a gigantic palapa without walls, access is gained through what remains of an original sacbé, a network of white roads in the middle of the jungle laid out by the ancient Maya to communicate between the different kingdoms of their world, leading to a walled city, one of the few with this characteristic.

This city-state was known in pre-Hispanic times as Talol. Written sources from the XVI century attribute its foundation to Ek' Balam, in Yucatec Maya (Eek' Báalam or Coch CalBalam), Black Jaguar, from Ek, black; and Balam, jaguar, but it could also be black light, or the surnames Ek and Balam.

Ek' Balam, a city of great wealth

Ek Balam was inhabited in the Preclassic, Classic, and Postclassic periods, which gives an occupation of between 1500 and 1800 years. Its history begins from 300 before our era until approximately 1450, when it never seemed to have been conquered. Its splendor is situated in the year 700.

Behind the remains of the stone walls, there is a beautiful Mayan arch with about thirty structures, most of which are from the end of the classical period. These structures include the oval palace, the twin pyramids, a ball game, a dual-use building (residential and government or religious), two structures that haven't been excavated yet, as well as hieroglyphic serpents and stelae, one of which stands out because it looks like a ruler of Ek' Balam.

It was a capital with great wealth. It came to have some 12 square kilometers of surface, inhabited by approximately 15,000 people, with a large number of buildings that have not yet been quantified because, in many cases, the current surrounding populations have settled on them, which prevents seeing them, explained the anthropologist. In 1988, when Hurricane Gilberto went through the Yucatan Peninsula, it came out into the open.

The "Acropolis"

Special mention deserves the imposing building called the "Acropolis", a pyramidal structure 160 meters long by almost 70 meters wide and 31 meters high, with 106 steps from the base to the top, from where you have a spectacular view of the green plain and jungle. As a base perimeter, it is one of the largest found in Yucatan.

It is considered the most important part of the site by size, the "finding of the tomb of the ruler Ukit Kan Lek Tok and having found the only existing emblem glyph to date, in the north of the state of Yucatan, in which his name is mentioned."

In the middle, on one side of the stairs, is the tomb door, which is covered by a stucco frieze with the open jaws and fangs of a snake or jaguar. Above the tomb door is a figure of the ruler on his throne, guarded by warriors with feathers that look like wings.

Although access to the tomb, whose construction was ordered by the son of Ukit Kan Lek Toc for his father, is not allowed, it is possible to appreciate the remains of a mural where the ruler is seen ascending. The pictorial style of the site is considered by specialists to be one of the best in the Mayan area.

An additional attraction is the X'canché cenote, located two kilometers from the archaeological zone, where visitors can swim, rappel, and zip-line, with kayak service, a dining room, rest areas, and cabins. hours from Monday to Sunday from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm. Ek' Balam, like many other ancient Mayan World cities whose past greatness awes, offers mysteries yet to be discovered.