Walking on 600 Year Old Mayan Ruins

About the same time the Europeans were becoming "friendly" with the Native Americans in what is now the United States, the Spanish were becoming well acquainted with the Native Mayans in Guatemala. A lot of bloodshed and cultural shifts ensued as the Spanish conquered them. 

Miraculously a good number of archaeological sites of the historical Mayans are still standing. Some date back well before the Spanish arrived. Obviously Mayan Ingenuity can last.

Last weekend after leaving the Chichi market we decided to check out one of these sites. We visited Utatlán. It's a 45 minute drive North of Chichi. Like many things in this country, Utatlán is also known by other names (Q'umarkaj, Gumarkaaj, Gumarcaj, Cumarcaj or Kumarcaaj). To keep things simple I'll just call it Utatlán.

Utatlán was a city established by the Quiché Mayans around 1400 AD and lasted until the Spanish conquered it in 1542. 

By the front entrance the site has a guard station, a small dirt parking lot (that could probably fit 4 cars), and a nice museum. Everything in the museum was written in Spanish but the paintings and models were pretty graphic and therefore easy to follow. As you exit the museum you are presented with a two options, an unmarked dirt road or an unmarked path. We chose the path.

 After following the trail for five minute we faced this hill. It had stones and rocks at the top that were clearly placed there eons ago by man. There were no signs telling you not to touch anything (but we didn't)

After following the trail for five minute we faced this hill. It had stones and rocks at the top that were clearly placed there eons ago by man. There were no signs telling you not to touch anything (but we didn't)

 This was/is the central plaza of town. The big structure to the right was the main temple.

This was/is the central plaza of town. The big structure to the right was the main temple.

 This is the center of the Ballcourt. It was used for a sport called Ōllamaliztli.

This is the center of the Ballcourt. It was used for a sport called Ōllamaliztli.

 On the backside of the ruins was a very steep path.. Sorry no ADA access, which is very common here.

On the backside of the ruins was a very steep path.. Sorry no ADA access, which is very common here.

 the path led to a cave carved into the limestone. Mayan women and children used it for hiding during the Spanish conquest. It was (and still is) used during religious cermonies. 

the path led to a cave carved into the limestone. Mayan women and children used it for hiding during the Spanish conquest. It was (and still is) used during religious cermonies. 

The trip to Utatlán was worth it. It helped to break up the car ride for the kids and was it cool to see the history first hand. It was also interesting to see the dichotomy in historical preservation between the US and Guatemala. You could literally walk and climb on a lot of the ruins.

These ruins do not compare to Tikal (the country's most famous pyramids/ruins). They are not as old or grand in scale. Nor are they as well preserved. In fact, stones from Utatlán were looted to construct buildings in the nearby town of Santa Cruz del Quiché. On the flip side they are not crowded, they are much closer and you are free to roam around the grounds virtually unfettered. 

Check out this Wikipedia article for a more detailed history of the city and it's residents.