King Tutankhamen (or Tutankhamen) ruled Egypt as pharaoh for 10 years until his death at age 19 around 1324 B.C. He was barely known to the modern world until 1922 when British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the boy Pharaoh's tomb which had remained sealed for more than 3,200 years. The tomb’s vast hoard of artifacts and treasure which were intended to accompany the king into the afterlife revealed an incredible amount about royal life in ancient Egypt and quickly made King Tut the world’s most well-known pharaoh.
The ancient Egyptians believed in reincarnation and consequently their pyramids were constructed as burial tombs or chambers for their rulers with the hope they would be reincarnated, unlike the pyramids of Mesoamerica which were constructed primarily for ceremonial purposes. So after my introductory digression, let's get back on tract and visit the pyramids, temples, and churches of Mexico and beyond.
THE PYRAMIDS AND TEMPLES OF MEXICO AND MESOAMERICA:
Mesoamerica was a region and cultural area in the Americas extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica within which pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Despite the reputation of Egypt’s Great Pyramids at Giza, the Americas actually contain more pyramid structures than the rest of the planet combined. Pre-Colombia civilizations including the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec all built pyramids in honor of their gods and as ceremonial centers. In many of their great city-states, temple pyramids formed the center of public life and were the site of much holy ritual including human sacrifice. These civilizations and others flourished for nearly 4,000 years before the first contact with Europeans.
Monte Albán is a large pre-Columbian archaeological site in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. Founded around 500 BC the city lost its political pre-eminence between 500-750 AD and was soon abandoned thereafter.
Fast forward a couple of decades when I was personally "introduced" to the massive pyramids and temples built by the pre-Hispanic indigenous people of Mexico and Mesoamerica. I was attracted to these structures which fired my imagination and curiosity to know more about who, why, and how. This fascination is still with me as my husband will confirm since he has had to visit my "old folks and their rock piles" for many, many years while living in Latin America.
Some of my favorite Pre-Columbian pyramids, temples, and archaeological ruins include the following:
Tikal is the ruin of an ancient city, which was likely to have been called Yax Mutal, which is was found in a Guatemalan rain forest. It is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centers of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. This amazing site is part of Guatemala's Tikal National Park and in 1979 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Temple of Inscriptions in Palenque, Mexico was the burial monument to one of Palenque's great leaders and contains the second longest glyph (a hieroglyph/sculptured figure or relief carving) text known from the Mayan world (the longest is the Hieroglyphic Stairway at Copan: see below). The Temple of the Inscriptions records approximately 180 years of the city's history.
LINK TO MAYAN RUINS OF PALENQUE, UXMAL, AND TULUM POSTING
I hope you have enjoyed visiting some of my favorite pyramids and temples in Mexico and beyond. Now it is time to visit the churches of Mexico and Mesoamerica. We will begin with a mini-introduction to the history of the church and Catholicism in Mexico which I believe is important for our basic understanding and appreciation of these impressive man-made structures.
LINK TO POST INCLUDING CHAMULA AND ZINACANTAN, CHIAPAS
At some point in our wandering nomadic life I realized my great appreciation for the magnificent Catholic churches which were erected by the Spanish who had brought their Christian religion to Mexico. After the conquest and subjugation of the indigenous peoples of Mexico, the Spanish had massive churches built with local labor in honor of their one God. These churches, both big and small, were and still are the foundation of what was to become the strongly Catholic nation of Mexico and many other countries in Latin America as well. I find these churches truly awe-inspiring regardless of your faith.
LINK TO SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE POST
LINK TO OCOTLAN DE MORELOS POSTING
Antigua is a beautiful city surrounded by volcanoes in southern Guatemala.
LINK TO ANTIGUA, GUATEMALA POSTING
LINK TO SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS POSTING
The original church was built around 1541, but suffered damage from numerous earthquakes throughout its history which resulted with the first church building being demolished in 1669. The cathedral was then rebuilt and consecrated in 1680. By 1743 the cathedral was one of the largest in Central America. However, the devastating 1773 Guatemala earthquakes seriously damaged much of the building. San Jose has undergone much restoration work and been partly rebuilt over the many succeeding years. Here's hoping that the gods will bless San Jose with better luck in the future.
LINK TO ANTIGUA, GUATEMALA POSTING
I find this church stunning in its simplicity. To me it represents the strength and beauty of Yucatan, Mexico. We saw it while driving home to Merida from a visit to Izamal which is known as the "Yellow City." Izamal is a place of pilgrimage for the veneration of Roman Catholic saints. Several of the saint statues in Izamal are said to perform miracles. The Maya language is the first language in the homes of the majority of the people in Izamal.
LINK TO MERIDA, YUCATAN POSTING
This unusual and striking church is located on the outskirts of the Spanish colonial city of Zacatecas and unfortunately I have never been able to determine its name. It stands out vividly in our memory, however, because this photo was taken from our car window as we were leaving Zacatecas on the morning of September 11, 2001 shortly after we had heard of the attack on America. It reminds me of the terrible feeling of loss and grief we felt that horrible and tragic morning, but I also found it inspirational.
Credit for the above beautiful photo goes to Yolanda Nanez Landa Zamora of Zacatecas. Muchas gracias.
Thank you for joining me on this visit to the pyramids, temples, and churches of Mexico and Beyond. I have had a wonderful time re-visiting some of my favorite places and I hope you have also. As always, I look forward to your company, suggestions, recommendations, and comments. Until next time, safe trails and happy travels. Saludos, Laura
LINK TO MASTER PHOTO ALBUM
Life imitating Mayan sculptures in Copan, Honduras
For serious Mayan history buffs you can binge at the following:
YOUTUBE MAYAN HISTORY LINKS