The legendary Yucatan Hall of Records found at Yaxchilan? Strange Labyrinths and Edgar Cayce - Part I
The ancient Maya city of Yaxchilan rises on the Mexican shore of the mighty Usumacinta river, across from its rival city of Piedras Negras, some 35 kilometers (21 miles) downstream on the Guatemala side. Even to this day, the only access to Yaxchilan is by boat, along the river. Far from the crowds of Palenque and other Maya sites, the ruins of Yaxchilan are found today still very much in the same conditions as they were first described by Maudslay and Maler in the early 20th century, at the peak of the “Golden Age” of exploration.
Yaxchilan is one of the remotest Maya sites, on the Mexico-Guatemala border. To this day, the only access to the site is by boat along the Usumacinta river. There are no roads leading to Yaxchilan. (Photo: ©Marco M. Vigato)
The Mysterious Maya Labyrinths of Chiapas
One building in particular is unique among the ancient structures of Yaxchilan.
The main entrance to the Labyrinth of Yaxchilan is from a low building on one side of the Main Plaza, known as Building 19. This is one of the oldest and most intricately ornate structures at the site.(Photo: ©Marco M. Vigato)
Maler called it “The Labyrinth”, and it is today one of the first structures that the visitor encounters after disembarking at the site. It has one above ground and two underground levels, consisting of a maze of dark, bat-filled hallways and square, corbel vaulted rooms. The three levels are connected by internal stairways, and there are a number of niches with altars and blind passages that truly give the impression of a labyrinth. Many of the lower passages were deliberately filled with rubble in ancient times, so the true extent of the underground network of tunnels may never be known until more excavations are carried out.
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A view of the tunnel openings on the lower level of the Labyrinth of Yaxchilan. This section of the tunnels was left exposed when the roof collapsed, possibly under the weight of the structures above.(Photo: ©Marco M. Vigato)
Entrance to the labyrinth is granted today by four trapezoidal doors on the upper floor, facing the plaza, and three corbelled arches on the lower level. All of the interior passages are covered with a thick white stucco cape, which conceals the underlying masonry. It is possible that at least part of the labyrinth was tunneled into the hillside rather than built out of masonry. There are no hints as to the function of this enigmatic structure, its contents and all traces of wall paintings or decoration having long disappeared. No burials have been found in the Labyrinth either, making its purpose even more mysterious.
Only two more examples of Maya labyrinths are known—one in Chiapas at Toniná and another in Yucatan at Oxkintok. The Labyrinth of Toniná forms a true “Palace of the Underworld”, believed to be a temple to the spirits of the dead. It is grander in scale that the Labyrinth of Yaxchilan, although lacking many of the intricacies that make the Labyrinth of Yaxchilan unique in the Maya world.
Structure 33, also known as “The Palace” of Yaxchilan is an imposing building erected at the base of the Acropolis, on top of a natural elevation. In front of this building, Maler found a carved stalactite which he supposed could come from a large and still unexplored cave system located somewhere in the vicinity of Yaxchilan.(Photo: ©Marco M. Vigato)
The Labyrinth of Toniná is located on the first tier of the gigantic man-made pyramid that forms the acropolis of the site (now believed to be the largest in Mexico, surpassing in volume and height both the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan and the Great Pyramid of Cholula). It consists of 11 vaulted passageways, covered by beautiful corbel vaults rising to a height of nearly four meters (12 feet), all communicating with each other and with a number of blind tunnels and small chambers. Access is granted by means of three large doors that open towards the plain on the outer face of the pyramid-hill. Unlike the Labyrinth of Yaxchilan, the one at Toniná only contains one level. It is very well possible that this structure, placed at the base of the acropolis, was meant to symbolize the underworld of which the great pyramid-mountain above represented the visible manifestation on the earthly and celestial plane.