Where the Cocomes led the Mayapan league.
The walled city of Mayapán was considered as the great Mayan capital, according to Indian and Spanish chronicles. Its name means THE BANNER OF THE MAYAN.
During its peak in the Postclassic period, between 120 and 1450 A.D., there were 12,000 inhabitants, according to archaeological estimates.
Mayapán was the seat of the Mayapán League, a confederation that united the chiefs of Uxmal and Chichén Itzá in the peak of Mayan civilization. Disputes over control of the confederation ended with the defeat of the Itzáes who ruled Chichén, and their escape to the Petén, where they founded the city of Tayasal. From that moment on (end of the 13th Century) dominance over the league fell into the hands of the Cocomes of Mayapán, although they had great opposition from the inhabitants of other Mayan kingdoms in the peninsula.
Mayapán occupies an area of over four square kilometers, containing approximately 4,000 structures. It consists of a central area where the main civic, administrative and religious buildings, as well as the ruling classes’ residences, can be found. These rooms are supported by columns, pillars, temples and worshipping chambers. Structures are built on platforms with wide entrances divided by columns and an altar at the rear. The circular buildings, known as observatories, are an interesting feature.
The city of Mayapán was built in the likeness of Chichén Itzá, Structure Q162
or Castle of Kukulcán
, is a smaller scale copy of the Castle of Chichén Itzá. It has nine staggered bodies which, together, reach a height of 15 meters. The Temple of the Painted Niches
stands out for its mural painting, where the façade with five painted temples on five niches that symbolize the entrances to the temples can be seen. The Temple of the Frescos also has mural paintings on the north and south walls of its central building.
The Observatory or the Snail
, which was probably for ceremonial use, is a circular building divided by a wall.
Mayapan's observatory, shares a striking resemblance to that of Chichen Itza's, although not as high off the ground. Illustrating the decline of Post Classic Mayan civilization, Mayapan was an inferior copy of the Toltec-dominated Chichen-Itza architectural style.
With the fall of Chichén Itzá, Mayapán developed its own style, oriented toward the reworking of ancient forms.
The origins and the history of Mayapan are strictly linked to the those of Chichén Itzá. According to different Maya and colonial sources, Mayapan was founded by the culture-hero Kukulkan, after the fall of Chichén Itzá. Kukulkan fled the city with a small group of acolytes and moved south where he founded the city of Mayapan.
However, after his departure, there was some turmoil and the local nobles appointed the member of the Cocom family to rule, who governed over a league of cities in northern Yucatan. The legend reports that because of their greed, the Cocom were eventually overthrown by another group, until the mid-1400 when Mayapan was abandoned.
Archaeological investigations support this version of the story, since there is evidence that the ceremonial center of the city was destroyed around AD 1450. Deliberate destruction and marks of fire are visible in the excavation. Mayapan was eventually abandoned and had become a ruin by the time of the European arrival.
Artifacts recovered from Mayapan included pottery effigy censers with attached molded body parts that resemble images of Central Mexico gods. In general, the Mayapan art style seems influenced by the Mixteca-Puebla style of central Mexico, visible in many painted murals and stucco reliefs on the temple of Kukulkan.
Gold and copper artifacts such as bells and rings have also been found at Mayapan indicating a long-distance trade connection. Other materials include obsidian tools, whose raw material was imported from Guatemala along with jade.
Mayapan is a key site to understand Late Postclassic Mesoamerica and the early Colonial time. Not only it was the last capital of a Maya kingdom in the Yucatan, but its art and architecture reflect a long process of pan-mesoamerican trade, communication and stylistic exchange that included all Mesoamerica, from central Mexico to the Yucatan peninsula.