The Mayan elites built a wall around a city, leaving lower classes to fend for themselves

There has long been a mystery around a structure surrounding one of the most important Mayan archaeological sites in Mexico: A two-mile long wall that was constructed around the ancient city of Uxmal—located in the Yucatan Peninsula.

The question that has been asked by researchers for years is this: What was the true purpose of the giant wall?

You can zoom in on the city below via Google.

As it turns out, the wall was built for the most practical (and selfish) reason of all: To protect the elite members of Mayan society from invaders, Newsweek reports:

According to Jose Huchim Herrera, the director of the archaeological site from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History:

“The wall marks the extent of the territory which Uxmal controlled while also acting as a repellent to invaders.

“Intriguingly, the wall—which is reminiscent of those found at other Maya settlements—also divided Uxmal’s society: only the elites of the city lived inside them, while the lower classes had to fend for themselves outside.”

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A mural from The Temple of the Murals, which would have been inside the two-mile long wall via Arian Zwegers/Flickr CC BY 2.0

There were 20 entrance points along the wall, Professor Herrera notes. The wall also contained several tanks which collected rainwater. And portions of the structure appear to have been built hurriedly, as if the Mayans believed they were under imminent attack:

“‘There was a time of war, probably with Chichen Itza,'” Herrera said, referring to another important Maya city, located more than 90 miles to the east.

Surprisingly, very little research has been done at the site of the wall, and at least half of it remains to be uncovered.

The central focus of the site is what’s known as Pyramid of the Soothsayer or Magician. It stands over 130 feet high and is one of the best examples of Mayan art and architecture. And that’s not all that makes Uxmal so unique, Herrera explained:

“The majestic Mayan palaces of Uxmal are unique in their type, because they were built on various levels and their facades are notable for the stone filigree that seduces visitors.”

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A carving from a Mayan building (Via YouTube)

Maya civilization was one of the most advanced of its time:

“The Maya civilization dominated what is now southeastern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and the western areas of El Salvador and Honduras, for more than 3,000 years until the arrival of Spanish conquistadors.

They were notable for creating the only fully developed writing system in pre-Columbian America, as well as their sophistication in architecture, art, mathematics, and astronomy.”

Pyramid of the Magician, Uxmal, Mexico. March 2007 by tato grasso via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.5

We’ll likely gain new insight into the Mayans as we continue to explore the many incredible relics and monuments they left as reminders of what was once a people unmatched in their sophistication and achievements.

Related: Researchers rewrite Mayan history after discovering early evidence of ‘total war’ that led to collapse

This video from National Geographic provides more information on Mayan civilization:

Featured Image: Mayan wall by theilr via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

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