Mayapan – The Final Capital of the Maya
Mayapan was the final major capital of the Maya civilization, with a period of preeminence that lasted from 1200 to 1400, postdating the fall of Chichén Itzá. Thanks to its relatively recent age, many of the ruins have survived in good condition, making it easier to imagine how the city must have looked during its prime.
With over 4000 structures packed into a small site, Mayapan is nothing if not compact. Check out this detailed map from archaeologist Dr. Bradley Russell, who spent years studying the site. We were shocked by the density of the pyramids and temples, houses and platforms, towers and altars, and even a cenote. Mayapan’s growth was kept in check by a set of defensive walls, which are a rare feature in normally sprawling, spread-out Maya cities.
For years, Mayapan was the focus of excavations by multiple teams of archaeologists, and so a lot is known about the people who lived here, from their social structure to their diet. A lot of material about the city is available online. The University of New York at Albany’s Mayapán Archaeology is an excellent resource to start with, as is Dr. Russell’s Mayapan Periphery Project.
According to those well-versed in the archaeology of the Maya, the ruins of Mayapan aren’t as important as those at other sites. The culture was already in the throes of its final decline, and Mayapan isn’t as elegant or interesting as the cities which preceded it. I don’t know, though; we were amazed by the city’s ruins. We’re laymen, of course, but this was one of the most visually impressive sites we visited, and Mayapan ended up as one of our very favorites.