Mayapan facts for kids

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Mayapan '2010 - 31.JPG
Temple of Kukulcan at Mayapan
Location Tecoh Municipality, Yucatán, Mexico
Region Yucatán Peninsula
Coordinates Script error: The function "coordinsert" does not exist.
Periods Middle Preclassic to Late Postclassic
Cultures Maya civilization

Mayapan (Màayapáan in Modern Maya), (in Spanish Mayapán) is a Pre-Columbian Maya site a couple of kilometers south of the town of Telchaquillo in Municipality of Tecoh, approximately 40 km south-east of Mérida and 100 km west of Chichen Itza; in the state of Yucatán, Mexico. Mayapan was the political and cultural capital of the Maya in the Yucatán Peninsula during the Late Post-Classic period from the 1220s until the 1440s. Estimates of the total city population are 15,000–17,000 persons, and the site has more than 4,000 structures within the city walls, and additional dwellings outside.

The site has been professionally surveyed and excavated by archeological teams, beginning in 1939; five years of work was done by a team in the 1950s, and additional studies were done in the 1990s. Since 2000, a collaborative Mexican-United States team has been conducting excavations and recovery at the site, which continue.


Mayapan is 4.2 square kilometers and has over 4000 structures, most of them residences, packed into this compound within the city walls. Built-up areas extend a half kilometer beyond the city walls in all directions. The stone perimeter wall has twelve gates, including seven major gates with vaulted entrances. The wall is 9.1 km long and is roughly ovate with a pointed northeast corner.

The ceremonial center of the site is located in Square Q of the city's grid in the center of the wider western half of the walled enclosure. The ceremonial center has a tightly packed cluster of temples, colonnaded halls, oratories, shrines, sanctuaries, altars, and platforms (for oration, dancing, or stela display). A.L. Smith, an archeologist with the Carnegie Institute, estimated 10–12,000 people lived within the walled city.

According to Dr. Bradley Russell's survey outside the city walls, there were numerous additional dwellings and he revised the total population estimate to between 15,000–17,000 people. His survey results are posted online at People living outside of the city wall engaged in agriculture, animal-raising, and specialized activities such as lime production. Russell also found a colonnaded hall outside the city wall, revealing much is still to be discovered regarding the complexity of this urban landscape.

The Temple of Kukulcan, a large pyramid also known as the Castillo, is the main temple in Mayapan. It is located immediately to the east of the Cenote Ch'en Mul, which has caves radiating from it. In form, the Temple of Kukulcan (Structure Q-162 on the site map) is a radial four-staircase temple with nine terraces; it is generally similar to the Temple of Kukulcan at the earlier site of Chichen Itza. However, the Mayapan temple appears to be an inferior imitation of the one at Chichen Itza, and the city's buildings in general are not constructed as well as those in other Mayan cities. For example, most or all of the vaulted roofs in Mayapan have collapsed, while many of the better-built buildings at Chichen Itza remain intact. Other major temples in the ceremonial center include three round ones, which are unusual for the Maya area and are also linked to the deity Kukulkan/Quetzalcoatl in his wind god (Ehecatl) aspect. Unlike Chichen Itza, Mayapan has no ballcourts.

The extensive residential zones of the site are composed of dwellings and ancillary domestic structures, with those around the ceremonial district larger and of higher quality and those toward the fringes being generally poorer. The houses are often arranged in small patio groups surrounding small courtyards. Houses were built haphazardly without organized streets. Lanes wind among the residences and walls. The residential areas of the site contain many cenotes, perhaps as many as 40. Settlement was the most dense in the southwestern part of the city where cenotes are more numerous.

Mayapan Panorama
A panorama of the Mayapan excavations from the top of the Castle of King Kukulcan.

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