Location: Yaxchilan, Chiapas, Mexico
We headed down the site of Yaxchilan on the Usumacinta River that borders Mexico and Guatemala. It was the dry season so the river was low, but it was still over a sixty meters wide.
For the ancient Maya, who had no animals or industrial wheels to help carry loads, the rivers were the most efficient ways of bringing goods to and from the interior. So it is not surprising that they would set up toll booths along these watery trade routes. The site of Yaxchilan was one such site.
There may have been areas for commerce and urban houses near the river, but these were destroyed by floods long ago. Fortunately, the temples and stone palaces were built uphill. They utilized the tall canyon heights to give the structures more grandeur. The first building we came to was called the Labyrinth. It was well named as you have to navigate a couple of T shaped interior passages and climb a series of interior stairs to get from the entrance to the Grand Plaza.
One of the prominent buildings at the Grand Paza was the house of the Number One Wife, who according to the glyphs, had a duty to share her hallucinogenic visions with the people. It sounds like a cool job description until you realize that she had to do a lot of blood letting in order to communicate with the gods.
The buildings beyond the grand plaza were built at higher and higher elevations. These are magnificent temples, but I considered the Mexican midday heat and wondered if it would be prudent to climb them. It was a balance between my exploratory urges and plain common sense. Let us just say that my exploratory urges won out. I made the ascension. I touched the stones. I created some images. Nonetheless, I have to admit that here I came close to meeting my limits for endurance. Thoughtfully the tour administrator brought a couple of cases of water to keep us from dehydration. With a bit of rest, and a lot of water, I was ready to climb up to the next temple group.