One of our 1/2 day trips was to the ruins at Iximche (pronounced /i-shim-che/) which are about half way between Antigua and Panajachel. Although much smaller the the famous ruins at Tikal, Iximche was a good introduction to how they Maya cities were set up, the classes of people who lived there, and what daily life was like.
Our tour started by looking at a model of what Iximche probably looked like when people lived there. The guide explained how each plaza had a castle, temples, altars for sacrifice, and areas for trade and court. There were four main nobles who lived and ruled here with the first, richest family controlling the first two of the five plazas. It is believed that this area was occupied from 1470-1524. Columbus made his first visit in 1492, so that puts the time period into perspective. One theory about why the Maya civilization fell has to do with the Spanish conquistadores overtaking them.
The Maya had a form of writing that is made up of 800 pictures which include gods, animals, and people. Each picture stood for a sound and were combined to form words and sentences. On this replica stone, you would read the first two columns together going top to bottom and then go back to the top to read the next two columns.
|Luis, Izzy, and Grace. I love how they are holding hands.|
Since Iximche is in the Guatemalan Highlands, set on a ridge that is 7,400 feet above sea level it was a little chilly the morning we visited. But it was perfect for walking and exploring. We learned that daily life depended on class. Most Maya were common people who were farmers, hunters, carpenters, stone masons, etc. The highest class were the nobles and priests. And slaves were often enemies that were captured in battle or people who were caught stealing.
|All 6 kids - Grace, Luis, Anna, Karra, Rosa, Izzy|
We enjoyed looking the the ball field where they played a game that sounded like a combination of soccer and basketball. The objective was to get a ball through a round goal at one end of the field without using hands or any part of the upper body.
This aqueduct still carries water through the ruins when it rains a lot.
Iximche still has an active site for Maya rituals. When we visited there was smoke from a recent fire but we didn't see a ceremony that day.
As we walked back across the fields, I wondered what the inside of the temples must have looked like when Iximche was a busy city of hundreds of people.
The kids, though, just enjoyed having time and open space to run around.
|Izzy (North Carolina), Rosa (Maryland), Grace, and Anna (Massachusetts)|