Traveling across the Yucatan Peninsula in search of the ancient history of the Mayans will undoubtedly be an exciting experience that reveals hundreds of fascinating options scattered throughout this vast territory. Mayan ruins of all shapes and sizes, from beautifully restored entire cities to unexcavated mounds covered by subtropical rain forest, dot the landscape and offer visitors a window into this once thriving culture.
The ancient city of Chichen Itza, now one of the new 7 Wonders of the World, is probably the most famous and largest of the excavated sites. It is also the most visited. The region however has many others which are just as attractive to those who want to learn about this once powerful civilization, like the sites at Kabah, Uxmal and Mayapan. Dzibilchaltun is one of these lesser known sites, yet its history is incredibly important and the excavated portions accessible to the public, amazingly photogenic.
Located only 10 miles to the north of the colonial city of Merida this city was once a wealthy port and had a peak population of about 20,000, although it declined with the rise of neighboring Chichen Itza. It is also among the oldest Mayan cities, as confirmed by evidence of its occupation between the year 500 B.C. and 1500 A.D.
Dzibilchaltun occupies an area of approximately 7 square miles, within which there must have been over 8,000 architectural structures, although few of them have been excavated. Given its location near the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, its economy was based on the production and use of marine products (salt, shell tools, seafood) as well as on those produced inland, such as maize.
The most famous structure is the Temple Of The Seven Dolls (Templo de las Siete Muñecas), so named because of seven small dolls or figurines found inside. Visitors can also see the Museum of the Maya People which hosts a collection of representative pieces of the area, as well as a recreation of a traditional Maya house.