Friday, June 19, 2020

Awesome suprise in Paraiso, Maxcanu.

Often times when I am speaking with someone who does not know much about Mesoamerica or the Maya I am often left with the impression that they think that archaeological remains are much more scarce than they really are. This is to say they figure there are perhaps about three to five or so archaeological sites of settlements of any real importance and then a few scattered rather insignificant sites. They are usually when I tell them I have visited well over 100 Mayan archaeological sites, and that many of them are the remains of quite large sites complete with plazas and very sizable construction. This is all to say (without bragging) that I am fairly well travelled in the region. That being said… like just about everyone I often come across information regarding a site I somehow have never heard about.

Some time ago, I don't recall how, I came across a website with some info regarding a church located in the municipality the town of Paraiso Yucatan (which I had never even heard of) in the municipality of Maxcanu. From the couple of photos on the website, I could see that who ever built or remodeled this church had used what appeared to be Mayan stelae as adornments. While its by no means that rare to find evidence of pre hispanic art/architecture in churches in the region, these details are usually limited to a small carved detail here, or some hieroglyphic writing there. Not in Paraiso, what I seemed to be seeing where entire stelae and other fairly significant sculpted reliefs being displayed quite prominently. As you can probably tell from the photos bellow, they are very Puuc (which is obvious given the their period/location) and also of a style you would expect to find in sites such as Oxkintok. Intrigued, I found a write up about a project at this very site and found out that the stelae were in fact authentic and had been originally found in the area surrounding an hacienda called Santa Barbara. The report can be found here:

Anyway, according to the document these remains came to the attention of archaeologists in the 1960s as locals began to report pillaging. It is still unclear to me what exactly was the state of these artifacts or how/when they found a home on the facade of this church… but I am sure its a fascinating story. If you know anything about this please give me a shout, I would love to know more. In any case here are some pictures of said church and its marvelous idiosyncratic decorations! Quite an example of religious syncretism would you say? The photos are all my own and from February of 2020.

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