The Maya Ruins of Edzná
Found 50 kilometers inland from Campeche, the Maya site of Edzná is best known for its five-level pyramid-palace structure. Without our own transportation, Edzná was difficult to reach, but the opportunity to see its compact and beautiful ruins made the effort worthwhile.
We had to depend on public transportation to get from Campeche to Edzná, and finding the bus wasn’t a simple task. The tourist office had been of no help, so we went to the market and started asking around. Everyone had a different idea on where to find the appropriate colectivo (mini-bus), but none of their advice panned out. Eventually, a scraggly, sketchy guy selling ice-pops out of a cooler approached us, claiming to know where to find the bus. We followed him apprehensively into a dilapidated building, out the back courtyard, and into an alley where, indeed, there were colectivos bound for Edzná. “Haha,” I said, clapping our hero on the shoulder, “and here I thought you were planning to kill us.”
The crowded, sweaty bus ride took an hour, but soon enough we were walking into the ruins. Edzná is an extremely old site. Originally settled around 400 BC, it reached its peak during the terminal classic period, in about AD 900, at which point it was home to 25,000 people. After a long decline, the city was abandoned by 1500. Edzná’s name means “House of the Itza”, indicating a strong connection to Chichén Itzá. It’s possible that the powerful Itzá clan settled here first before moving farther north.
Edzná is famous for a five-tiered structure that marries elements of a pyramid and a palace. When we first arrived, I figured that this was the somewhat large pyramid at the end of the plaza. Pretty cool, but not mind-blowing, and I couldn’t see any palace-type features on it. However, upon climbing to the top of a sub-structure, my mind was blown after all. Turns out that Ednzá’s famous five-story pyramid is completely obscured from view at the entrance, and suddenly seeing it after cresting the steps was quite a shock.
This structure, which you unfortunately can no longer climb, has multiple doorways on each floor that led to the private quarters of Edzná society. The more important you were, the higher up on the pyramid you lived. Considering that it wasn’t just ceremonial, but home to the upper echelon of Edzná society, it seems safe to assume that the pyramid must have been full of treasures. And it still might be. Incredibly, it’s never been fully excavated.
Edzná is compact, so you don’t need a lot of time to see the entire site; we were done in about an hour, and then had to wait for the colectivo back to Campeche. To pass the time, we ate tacos made by a woman at a makeshift stand on the side of the road, and chatted with her about the Mennonites who kept driving past. Jürgen and I don’t necessarily have a lot in common with rural taco ladies, but if there’s one thing that can bring even the most disparate groups of people together, it’s laughing about weird, white Mexican Mennonites.