After passing the Cabalpak Group, our trail became more and more obscure until we found ourselves lost in a dark wood. Ready to turn back, suddenly our friend Jeff spotted Edifice 4 shining through the trees and he followed a barely discernable trail straight up a very steep hill. He led and we followed, and we soon arrived scratched, sweaty, but triumphant at the Xetpol Group.
H.E.D. Pollock visited Chacmultun sometime between 1932 and 1940, and must have experienced something similar, for he writes that "the building rests on the brink of a steep slope falling away to the valley floor, there is no very natural or obvious approach, but one must assume it was from the west and up that steep hill."
Pollock, H.E.D. The Puuc: An Architectural Survey of the Hill Country of Yucatan & Northern Campeche, Mexico. Memoirs of the Peabody Museum 19. Cambridge, Massachusetts. Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology 1980, p. 366
Edifice 4 rests on the brink of a steep slope falling over 100 feet to the valley floor. The roof of this building forms a terrace for the buildings one level above.
In the central section of this building, Edward Thompson, an early Mayanist, found that Chamber 12 has benches with little niches underneath.
He writes: "That in the first room is so destroyed that only its outline exists, but that in the inner room is a perfect as if made yesterday. It is faced with handsome cut and squared stones; the cement forming its upper surface is unusually thick, nearly six inches of mortar over the rubble filling. I found three apartments, or niches, beneath it."
Thanks to drawings Edward Thompson made at Chacmultun between 1900 and 1904, we have an idea of how the murals looked before many of them were damaged or destroyed.
Thompson greatly admired the murals and remarked: "The originals are drawn in strong even lines showing the master hand, and the artist about to copy them stood for some time in admiration of this vestige of the work of the prehistoric artist."
Thompson continues sadly: "The comparative proximity of Tekax, with its now restless and adventurous population, to Chacmultun, has worked serious havoc to archaeology. Excursions have been organized by adventurous parties who have crossed the long hill-chain on horseback and reached the ruined groups of Chacmultun.
The inevitable result has followed: precious bits of mural painting have been scraped off, and the clean white space thus made upon the wall has been utilized to inscribe visitor's names and mongrel poetry.
It is a piece of great good fortune that last season (1900) we copied all the most important parts, including the portions now erased. The work this year (1901) is to study and copy all hidded and obscure paintings that can possibly be made out."
Thompson, Edward H. Archaeological Researches in Yucatan. Memoirs of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University. Vol. III, No. 1. Cambridge Massachusetts 1904.
Reference & image courtesy of Dr. Judith Storniolo.
A stairway along the north side of Edifice 4 leads up to Building XX and a grand courtyard. This is Marion, who is about to ascend the staircase.
Marion's expression conveys what a grand time we were having at the ruins that day.
The Xetpol Group does not get a lot of visitors. We thought we smelled jaguar or mountain lion on the path up the hill, and again in back of this building.
Building XX, like other buildings at this site, probably had several stages of construction. The original construction was in Early Puuc style, with later additions. This building probably was constructed earlier than Building IV below on the lower terrace, which is Classic Puuc style.
Early Puuc style can be identified by the plain moulding running over the doorways and separating walls from the vaulted roofs. This is contrasted with the Classic Puuc style of the upper story which is characterized by a more elaborated tri-part moulding.
The Puuc Style gets its name from the Puuc Hills region of northwestern Yucatan and refers to the distinct architectural style of this region.
The Xetpol complex originally had three stories. Teobert Maler, who reported on the site in 1895, was told that a third story had once supported a perforated roof comb.
Pollock remarked on the "extraordinarily squat, highly curved vaults" of the first story. The second story had completely fallen when Pollock visited sometime between 1932 and 1940, but it was known that the building rested on a low platform about 1.50 m high, with battered walls and typical three-member molding at the upper edge.
This platform has since been restored as part of a major restoration undertaken by the Mexican government in the early 1980s.
The roof of Building IV on the lower terrace becomes the courtyard in front of Building XX on the upper terrace.
Standing here on one of the highest hills in the region, you can see the Chacmultún group across the valley in the distance.
We are rewarded with a wonderful panoramic view of the Puuc hills dotting the area toward the northern horizon. I only regret that I could not photograph the buzzard who was riding thermals above us.
A view through the shrubbery which obscures the path to the valley below. Note the epiphytes growing on the trees.
We all agreed that Xetpol is a most satisfying ruin to visit.