Discover the Mayan City of El Tajín in Mexico
According to Mesoamerican history, the Maya civilization was established in an time period known as the Pre-Classic period (2000BC to 250AD) and continued through the Classic period (250 to 900 AD) and Post-Classic period, until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores in the early 16th century. These invaders set about subduing the many individual Maya cities in the 16th century and today there are only ruins as a reminder of these once magnificent settlements. However, the Maya culture and Mayan languages are still spoken by up to six million indigenous Maya in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. Visitors to Mexico should take the opportunity to visit at least one of these Maya cities to gain some fascinating insight into the ancient history of the country. One such settlement is El Tajín, considered to be one of the most important cities of Mesoamerica's Classic era.
Due to its cultural importance and is superb architecture, El Tajín was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992 and it is the most important site of its kind for tourists visiting Veracruz. Currently, the site attracts more than 650,000 visitors each year. In March each year the Cumbre Tajín Festival features a range of cultural events and concerts, both indigenous and international, and is well attended.
At the entrance of the archeological site is an information office, cafeteria, ablution facilities and a museum. The museum consists of an enclosed building and a roofed area protecting fragments of large stone sculptures. Smaller objects are displayed in the enclosed room. Surrounded on three sides by two streams, the Arroyo Group consists of four nearly symmetrical buildings of uniform height. Due to the fact that there are no smaller buildings breaking up the space, it has been concluded that this was a market place.
One of the best examples of the decorative niches characteristic of Mayan architecture, and one of the most well preserved of the buildings, is the aptly named Pyramid of Niches. Constructed primarily of skillfully cut flagstones, the seven-story building housed a wealth of sculptures, some of which are now displayed in museums. The deep niches in the pyramid are similar to caves which were seen as passageways to the gods residing in the underworld.
Other prominent structures of El Tajín include Tajín Chico, the Building of the Columns and the North and South Ballcourts. Interestingly, more than twenty ballcourts have been discovered at El Tajín, with the most recent three being discovered in March 2013. Ongoing research at this fascinating site in Mexico may very well reveal more archeological treasures.