Note: If you arrived at this page via Mesoweb Search, use your browser's Find feature to locate the text of interest, then click the link to go to the illustrated page. Or click here to go to the beginning of the article.

Go to page: Although clearly pyramidal in shape, the so-called Building of Five Stories is very unusual in that its different levels (i.e., stories) are not made of solid masonry, as with most pyramidal buildings, but instead have a multitude of roofed chambers. This suggests the possibility of its having been used for dwelling or as an administrative building, a function not normally associated with pyramidal structures. It may have even had a two-fold purpose, as its uppermost story does indeed have the double galleried chambers typical of temples. If so, this building may have been uncommon in its use as both a dwelling place and a religious shrine.

Go to page: Detail of the Building of Five Stories. In the foreground, a round column (complete with capital) once helped support a stone lintel in order to make a wider doorway. This kind of column, while rare or nonexistent elsewhere in the Maya area, became quite common in the Puuc region of Western Yucatan and Northern Campeche during the Terminal Classic period, while the massive roofcomb shown in the upper portion of this picture is typical of Petén architecture. Not surprisingly, Edzna has long been considered a city straddling the building traditions of the Petén and the Puuc. Whether the differences between the two areas were not merely architectural but cultural is more difficult to ascertain.

Go to page: "Flying" stairways (ones that leap over open space, like here) are also a trademark of Puuc architecture, and further examples can be found in Uxmal and Kabah, to count but two. Throughout all of Edzna's core, clearly Puuc features can be found on buildings that, nevertheless, still retain the blockiness and massive volumes of the Petén style.

Go to page: Gazing northeast from the northern platform of the ballcourt (in the foreground), one can clearly appreciate the enormous amount of fill material that went into raising the Great Acropolis some eight meters above the lower plaza floor. In the upper right (slightly obscured by the tree), it is possible to see the back of the Southwestern Temple, while in the upper center a portion of the Building of Five Stories can be seen.

Go to page: Recently excavated, this three-staired building closes the small elevated plaza of the North Acropolis to the north. While no standing vaults remain, this too was a multi-chambered building. Given its central location, it probably was an important component in the civic functions of the city. From a purely architectural point of view, this building is perhaps the one that can be most closely associated with Puuc-style architecture in all of Edzna.

Go to page: Seen from slightly above a half-collapsed chamber, the stairway of the Building of Five Stories descends towards the Great Acropolis court. Just behind the stairs and slightly obscured by them is the so-called House of the Moon. To its right is the Southwestern Temple, and behind it the South Temple closes the Main Plaza to the south. To the right of this building we can see the southernmost tip of the aptly-named Nohoch Na ("Big House" in Mayan). Beyond is the jungle, still shrouding the southwestern quarter of this once-thriving city.

Go to page: The steps that ascend from the plaza on top of the Great Acropolis and lead to the Building of Five Stories still bear tens of glyphs finely sculpted on their risers. The date of the events recounted in this text appears to be 652 A.D. It is possible that this refers to the dedication date of the building, the completion of one of its phases or some other historical event that the ruler who commissioned the building wanted to commemorate or associate with the structure itself.

Go to page: This building, called the House of the Moon, closes the plaza on the Great Acropolis to the south. It is one of the site's best examples of pure Petén-style architecture. It is remarkable for its symmetry and particularly for its multiple doorways, separated by masonry pillasters that are uncommon in the Maya area. It has been suggested that the restoration of this building was somewhat excessive, and that may explain not only its pristine-looking modern appearance, but also some of its more unusual features.

Go to page: Two sacbes (ancient Maya roads, the name of which means "white way") converge at the stairway leading up to the Great Acropolis. While sacbeob (the plural in Mayan is formed by adding -ob, much in the way we add an "s") could be built for long-distance travel between cities, they were also very common inside sites, where they were probably used as processional ways or perhaps to formalize the approach to important buildings and/or areas within the city.

Go to page: Detail of the broad steps giving access to the Building of Five Stories. One can clearly make out the glyphs carved on the risers. So-called hieroglyphic stairways were very common throughout the Maya area. The best-known example is the monumental Hieroglyphic Stairway at Copan, but smaller examples of this kind of use of steps can be found all over the Maya area. Most known examples of hieroglyphic steps deal with historical events, such as dynastic histories, wars, conquests and accessions to power. The events the hieroglyphic stairway of Edzna talks about appear to have occurred during the seventh century A.D.

Go to page: Looking west from atop the Building of Five Stories, one can see the hieroglyphic stairway (foreground), the small platform in the middle of the Great Acropolis court (in the middle), the southwest and northwest temples that flank the top of the stairs leading up to the Acropolis from the plaza floor below, and the plaza itself, closed at its western end by the long structure of the Nohoch Na.

Go to page: The northern side of the Great Acropolis court is closed by a Puuc-style building that has only recently been excavated. The low, C-shaped platform in front of its stairs is probably Postclassic in origin and is typical of late occupation of Classic sites, when squatters took over the abandoned cities and built low stone platforms in courtyards and plazas as foundations for dwellings. The vast, flat landscape of Campeche extends beyond the ruins. At the extreme left of the horizon, an outcrop covered with vegetation can be seen: this is the unexcavated ruin of a large complex nicknamed "La Vieja."

Go to page: Running roughly north to south, the Nohoch Na ("Big House") is over 130 meters long. The steps that give access to its once-covered galleries run almost the whole length of the building. The very large size of these steps could be explained by the fact that they may have also been used as bleachers for spectators to watch events played out on the main plaza. Another feature of the Nohoch Na is its possible use for for astronomical observations, since a passage bisecting it at the center is aligned both with the Building of Five Stories to the east and with another, still unexplored structure to its west. To the left of the picture, one can see the backside of the Southern Temple.

Go to page: The parallel structures that define the Edzna ballcourt strike the visitor as being rather massive for such a narrow playing alley. But remarkably small ballcourts are known from other sites (most strikingly, Tikal). While their use as ritual structures and not necessarily actual playing courts cannot be discounted, one is constantly reminded of how little we know about the game. It is not unthinkable that the ballgame had variants. One-on-one play would be a possibility not requiring a large playing area, which could nevertheless be sufficiently significant for spectators to be accomodated on grand structures.

Go to page: In the foreground is the court of the Great Acropolis, with the Northwestern Temple (to the far right) flanking the grand stairway (not seen here) that descends into the Main Plaza, which is closed off to the west by the imposing mass of the Nohoch Na (in the background). While beyond this latter structure all has been swallowed by the jungle, the site's core extended well beyond this very large area, as can be attested by the tree-covered tall mound close to this picture's right-hand corner. The mound holds the unexcavated remains of a very large complex nowadays known as "La Vieja," after an old Maya legend about an elderly woman who cared for a child/dwarf-magician.

Go to page: These ruined walls once were part of a chamber on the Platform of the Knives, so called because a dedicatory cache of stone knives was discovered in the course of its excavation. These walls are a good example of building technique in the Puuc region, where a shapeless mass of stone and lime mortar forms the core of a wall defined on its outside by a thin veneer of carefully dressed stones. Once set, the stone-and-mortar core of walls and vaults basically became one unit, its strength as a building material not dissimilar to modern concrete.

Go to page: Stela 6 from Edzna is now exhibited at Campeche City's stela museum in one of the colonial city's old ramparts (the Baluarte de la Soledad). Its text is unfortunately badly eroded. Nevertheless, it is a good example of the somewhat unusual subject matter (when compared to monuments at other major sites) of some of Edzna's stelae. It depicts a fully attired ballplayer (notice the protective belt and ornate knee guard) leaning against the sloping bench of a ballcourt. Though the monument is eroded and available drawings are not very good, he seems to be holding an ornamented skull, death being common iconography at ballcourts. While ballplayers occur elsewhere on stone panels, it is unusual to find them on stelae.

Go to page: In a very unusual composition, Stela 16 displays five separate registers: the first and fifth are quite narrow and seem to have held small motifs, making them good candidates, respectively, for a skyband and an earthband. The middle three registers (stacked one on top of the other, as the scenes in a codex) show different scenes of human characters interacting. Unfortunately, the monument's erosion makes it impossible to make out any details.

Go to page: This wonderfully modeled stucco mask was found on the western end of Structure 414's northern façade and is one of two to have survived here. It is quite possible that the building may have once had more masks, both on its upper levels and on its other three façades. The figure's large squinting eyes mark it as a deity, and it has been suggested that architectural stucco masks of this kind (here and elsewhere) were representations of celestial bodies. This notion is reinforced here by the remains of skybands flanking both masks of Structure 414.

Go to page: This is the stucco mask that survived on the eastern end of the northern façade of Structure 414. Its overall state of preservation is even better than the western one, both in terms of finery and in terms of paint. But both Edzna stucco masks are particularly interesting in that they are relatively intact and a lot of their original painting scheme can still be discerned (see the detail views on the following pages).

Go to page: Closer view of the stucco mask on the western end of Structure 414's northern façade. Note the squinting eyes, furrowed brow and T-shaped tooth. Extensive remains of red, ochre, and black paint remain on this extraordinary piece.

Go to page: Closer view of stucco mask on the eastern end of Structure 414's northern façade. This figure appears to be wearing a half-mask, judging from the step between his cheeks and cheekbones. Notice also the zoomorphic headdress and bird earflares, complete with projecting beaks to the sides and birds' heads under the flare proper. Identification of this supernatural remains difficult, but the fact that it is an aged male with bird attributes may mark him as the creator deity Itzamnaaj.

Go to page: A view of the Great Acropolis plaza from slightly above its northeastern corner looking to the southwestern one, marked by a Peten-style small temple. The low platform in the middle of the plaza is a variant of the radial structures found in many plazas throughout the Maya area. They are called radial because they have stairs on all four sides, a feature suggesting cardinal associations. Perhaps the best known of these structures is Structure A in the Great Plaza of Copan, Honduras.

Go to page: View of the Building of Five Stories from the southwestern corner of the Acropolis plaza. Although most of the buildings surrounding the Acropolis have either been engulfed by vegetation or collapsed altogether (the remains of the corner of a building can be seen in the foreground), this area may have once been the focal point of the political and religious activities of the ancient city.