Ek Balam

Mayan Archaeology > Yucatan > Yucatan

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Discover its precious stucco sculptures

Ek Balam means “black jaguar” in the Yucatec Maya language. Its origins date back to 300 B.C., and its peak occurred during the late and end Classic period.

It is one of the few Mayan settlements that remained occupied until the arrival of the Spaniards. It reached an area of 12 square kilometers, which included a sacred central space of 1 square kilometer, where the elite lived. This small central zone was protected by three walls.

The sign of Ek Balam’s material and cultural wealth, as well as technological and artistic development, is manifested in the wall paintings, where artisans decorated constructions with incredible works of art, from vault covers with monochromatic designs to whole vaults covered in colorful and complex murals. The murals that remain today reflect the city’s important moments.

The pictorial style of Ek Balam is considered one of the best in the Mayan area since, as it is naturalist it realistically expresses, with accurate proportions as well as noteworthy finesse and plasticity, the representations of deities and mythical beings on the painted covers, as well as human beings and animals represented on the building walls.

It has 45 structures and it is surrounded by two concentric stone walls plus another one which connects the main buildings. It has a Ball Court and a spectacular arc where a road used to lead.

There are also stelae and hieroglyphic serpents, which are beautifully carved monuments on stone blocks. The structures mix several architectural styles, but there are also details that make them unique, such as winged images that resemble angels.

The Acropolis on the north side is the biggest structure. It is 162 meters long, 68 meters wide and 32 meters high. The frieze is well-preserved and accents the gate with open jaws and the fangs of a serpent. The king sits above on his throne and, the figures of winged warriors are either side of him. Inside is sub-Structure 35 or Sak Xok Naah, which translates as “White House of Reading”, where the tomb of Ukit Kan Le’k Tok’, one of the most important lords of the site’s governing dynasty, is located.

A stela can be viewed, which represents a ruler of Ek Balam, probably Ukit Jol Ahkul.

Monday through Sunday from 8:00 to 17:00
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How to arrive

From Mérida, take the southeast exit out of the city towards Valladolid. On the North of the city of Valladolid, access is through the Valladolid-Río Lagartos section, go through the town of Temozón, where the turn leading to Ek balam can be found 7 kilometers ahead. After 15 kilometers there is a right turn, which leads to the Ek Balam archaeological zone.


Map and address

It is located 27 miles north of the city of Valladolid.