By Xánath Caraza
Some of the most incredible books I’ve found around the world have been in the Forest of Stone Steles Museum in Xian in China, on La Alhambra walls in Granada, Spain and in many of the Zapotec, Aztec, Totonac, Purépecha, and Mayan archeological sites in Mexico. Of course on many occasions, I’ve only been able to observe and admire them, wishing to have the ability to read ancient Chinese characters, the Arabic alphabet or any of the ancient Mesoamerican languages. Thus, as a writer, I’m always looking for a good book to read. It could be a book as we know it on paper or electronically, a codex, or a book literally written in actual stone.
Today I want to share with you a brief, layperson orientation of Mayan architecture in Yucatán so as to contextualize the ancient writings on the walls of Mayan structures dating back in some cases a millennium or more for the photo essay I am providing of some of the earliest Mayan books specifically in the style found along the Ruta Puuc outside Mérida, Yucatán, México. Immediately following this photo essay of Mayan writings in stone, yet written on paper instead of stone, I also want to share with you the cover of my upcoming book of poetry, Noche de Colibríes: Ekphrastic Poems.
An expert in Mayan culture I am not, and an avid traveler I am. As many of us know, the Mayan culture is located in the southern part of Mexico, most of Guatemala, and other Central American countries. The archeological sites comprising La Ruta Puuc are: Labná, X’lapac, Kabah, Sayil and Uxmal, as well as the Loltún system of caves. (To my surprise, neither the Chichén Itza nor Tulúm archeological sites are part of the Puuc architectural style.) The Puuc style happens to be one of the many architectural styles developed by the Mayans. This specific architectural style is located in the southern part of the State of Yucatán, and part of the northern state of Campeche. The Puuc architecture style is highly ornate, for example a temple dedicated to birds in Uxmal with actual sculpted birds on the walls of the temple.
Of some of the ancient books written in stone along the beautiful Ruta Puuc, a series of photos follows:
Loltún system of caves
Ancient stone writing it is not, and an interplay of images and words on paper it is. The cover of my upcoming chapbook, Noche de colibríes: Ekphrastic Poems (Pandora lobo estepario Press, 2014) is scheduled for release in February. The cover art of my new book is by Heriberto Luna.