Ek Balam is located in the Mexican state of Yucatán, approximately 30 km north of the city of Valladolid. The site’s accessibility makes it a prime destination for history enthusiasts and curious adventurers alike.
Ek Balam is surrounded by dense jungle that enhances its mystical aura.
Here you will encounter intricate structures and well-preserved sculptures amidst the natural beauty. The diverse flora and fauna in the region provide a captivating backdrop to the historical wonders of Ek Balam.
Ek Balam invites you to unravel the mysteries of the Mayan civilization in a captivating natural setting. Whether you’re a history buff or an avid adventurer, Ek Balam promises an unforgettable journey through time.
Yucatán experiences a tropical climate, characterized by warm temperatures throughout the year. The rainy season typically spans from June to October, while the dry season extends from November to April.
Consider planning your visit during the dry season, from November to April.
During this period, the weather is more predictable, and the chances of rain are significantly lower. The months of December to February offer pleasant temperatures without the discomfort of excessive heat.
Ek Balam (from Yucatec Maya “Éekꞌ Báalam” (“Jaguar Star”).
Previously, there was doubt about the ancestral name of this site.
The particle éekꞌ can mean both “star” and refer to the color black, but thanks to the discovery of the Mayan glyph emblem of this city, it can be said with certainty that the correct translation would be “Jaguar Star”.
Ek’ Balam was occupied from the Middle Preclassic through the Postclassic. At the beginning of the Late Preclassic, the population grew. Ek Balam came to control the region around the beginning of the Common Era.
From its modest beginnings, in the year 300 BC, until the arrival of the Spanish, the human settlement in Ek Balam reached about 12 sq km, which included a central sacred space of 1 sq km, where the elite resided.
The site layout is surrounded by two concentric walls which serve as a defense against attack. There were many smaller walls that snaked through the city as well.
The inner wall encompasses an area of 9.55 hectares. The carved stone of the inner wall, 2 m tall and 3 m wide, is covered in plaster; the outer wall serves purely for defense, as it is less substantial and less decorative.
These walls were the largest in the Late Classic Yucatan, and seem to have a symbolic meaning of protection and military strength.
Theories claiming a hasty desertion of the city are backed up by the fourth wall inside the city, which “bisects the Great Plaza, and, at less than a meter wide and made of poorly constructed rubble, it was clearly built as a last-ditch effort at protection” against invading attackers.
Structures Inside the Walls
Only the center of Ek’ Balam has been excavated. Large, raised platforms line the interior wall, surrounding internal plazas.
Sacbé roads stem off of the center in the four cardinal directions, an architectural allusion to the idea of a “four-part cosmos”. These roads are often understood to have been sacred.
The buildings were designed in the northern Petén architectural style, as were the surrounding large cities of the time, although it has its dissimilarities with them as well.
The Acropolis houses the tomb of King Ukit Kan Le’k Tok’, who ruled from 770 (the starting year of the “height” of this city) to 797 or 802 CE.
In rooms of the Acropolis, wall paintings consisting of texts have been found, amongst these the ‘Mural of the 96 Glyphs’, a masterwork of calligraphy comparable to the ‘Tablet of the 96 Glyphs’ from Palenque.
Another wall painting of the Acropolis features a mythological scene with a hunted deer, which has been interpreted as the origin of death. A series of vault capstones depict the lightning deity, a specific decoration also known from other Yucatec sites.
View from the top
On a clear day, from the top of the Acrópolis, the temples of Cobá and Chichén Itzá can be seen on the horizon.
- Temple Ixmoja of Cobá is approximately at azimuth 135° (Southeast) at a distance of 65 km.
- El Castillo of Chichén Itzá is approximately at azimuth 242° (West-Southwest) at a distance of 55 km.
Ek’ Balam was rediscovered and explored first by influential archaeologist Désiré Charnay in the late 1800s but extensive excavation did not take place until a century later.
Bill Ringle and George Bey III mapped the site in the late 1980s and continued to do extensive research into the 1990s, their works being cited by many others who later wrote on the site.
Subsequently, the Acropolis was excavated by Leticia Vargas de la Peña and Víctor Castillo Borges from the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.
Alfonso García-Gallo Lacadena deciphered the most important set of North Maya Maya hieroglyphic texts and all historical references of Ek Balam are based on his intellectual work.
- Given the warm climate, staying hydrated is crucial. Carry a water bottle with you.
- Wear lightweight, breathable clothing and comfortable shoes suitable for walking on uneven terrain.
- Don’t forget to apply sunscreen, wear a hat, and bring sunglasses to shield yourself from the sun’s rays.
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