Credit: Frederick Catherwood/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Historical Insights Yucatán's Uxmal Ruins

Today, Uxmal is considered a major archeological site of Mayan culture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 1844, Uxmal, Yucatán, Mexico. Credit: Frederick Catherwood/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Yucatán's Uxmal Ruins

Between 1840 and 1842 explorers John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood mapped, documented, and drew the Mayan ruins at Uxmal in Yucatán.

“…toward the west by north, startling by the grandeur of the buildings…,with no decay visible, and at this distance seeming perfect as a living city, were the ruins of Uxmal,” American John Lloyd Stephens wrote in one of his famous books about traveling to various Mayan ruins in Central America. Beleaguered by malaria and tropical diseases, a map of questionable accuracy, few companions, and word-of-mouth directions, Stephens and his British colleague Frederick Catherwood spent months documenting Mayan sites with words, drawings, and daguerreotypes. One of these journeys was to Uxmal, an ancient Mayan city in Yucatán. Stephens noted that many of these sites were virtually unknown to local residents at the time. The pair’s careful documentation of routes, distances, and locations, as well as gorgeously detailed illustrations, ignited international curiosity about Mayan culture and made them famous authors, which laid the groundwork for future study.