Las Palomas

The House of Doves (A.K.A. Casa de las Palomas) in the Maya ruins of Uxmal has one face that tends to be shown in tourist brochures and online photos.  This is the other (north) face:

Las Palomas

When I last visited, the structure was getting a bit of touch-up work done (thus, the scaffolding you can faintly see in the left of this photo).  I think it’s a very photogenic structure regardless — even on the less-pretty side and with scaffolding in full view.

Fort Fincastle at dusk

Overlooking downtown Nassau in The Bahamas, Fort Fincastle was built of limestone in 1793 as part of the islands’ defenses against the threat of pirates.  An oddly shaped little thing, it’s one of three surviving forts in Nassau.

Fort Fincastle at dusk

Roughly teardrop-shaped, Fort Fincastle has the advantage of sitting atop the highest point on the island, and has a great view of Nassau and its harbor. It once hosted 6 cannon and a howitzer, but none was ever fired in anger.

On guard

This little figure is part of the decoration on the Temple of the Warriors in the Maya ruins of Chichén Itzá, Mexico:

On guard

I’m not sure how tall he is, since he’s mounted at a significant height off the ground, and can’t be seen from up close — you need a reasonably long lens and some perspective correction software to get a shot like this.  Still, if you look closely, you can see that the figure is emerging from the jaws of a feathered serpent, with most of the serpent’s details carved in bas-relief into the building’s stones.

“Swelter Shelter” Petroglyphs

These petroglyphs were carved and painted into a sandstone wall (in what is now Dinosaur National Monument, Utah) about a thousand years ago by members of a semi-nomadic culture known as the Fremont:

"Swelter Shelter" Petroglyphs

This site, called the “Swelter Shelter,” was a seasonal dwelling for the Fremont, only used for part of the year as they followed available food and water.  But apparently conditions here were sufficiently hospitable that the Fremont had a little spare time for art.

Should you ever make it to Dinosaur National Monument, this is just one of a number of fairly easily visited sites along the Tour of the Tilted Rocks Scenic Drive, not far from the Visitor’s Center.

Governors, Turtles, and Tourists

A segment of a panorama from the ancient Maya ruins of Uxmal — covering the Governor’s Palace (left) and the House of the Turtles (right), along with a few scattered tourists:

Governors, Turtles, and Tourists

I initially didn’t expect this image to be of much account. It’s part of a panorama I made for later reference, one of many I made at a number of sites on my last trip to the Yucatán, primarily so I can double-check the quality of the maps I draw for my eBooks.

But in the process, I discovered that a modern iPhone (!) can make surprisingly good panoramas.

Magically purple

This past autumn, when I returned to the ancient Maya ruins of Uxmal, I had the opportunity to spend a night in a nearby hotel and so could watch the evening light show at the ruins.  The main action takes place in the Nunnery Quadrangle, but as you can see here, the Pyramid of the Magician isn’t left out of the fun.

Magically purple

Granted, the colors can get a bit… garish… but the show as a whole is pretty impressive.  And if you know a little Spanish, you get to hear a concise history of the site while watching the colored lights splashing on various buildings.

In our case, as happens pretty regularly (I’m told), we also got drenched right after the part of the show in which recorded voices (portraying plaintive inhabitants during the site’s historic drought) chant the name of the Maya rain god Chaac.  Interesting coincidence, that…

Offerings

A few years ago, we were fortunate to be able to visit the Actun Tunichil Muknal (Cave of the Crystal Sepulchre, a.k.a. ATM) cave in Belize.  It’s a 3-mile long wet cave (i.e., there’s a stream flowing through it), and a pretty “tough ticket” in that only a few guides are permitted to take tours through it — and the number of groups passing through on any given day are strictly limited.  It’s a physically demanding visit, too — you wind up climbing over and under boulders, swimming a significant part of the way, etc.

Offerings

But the restrictions are all for good reason.  The cave was used for sacrificial offerings by the ancient Maya, largely during the classic period (roughly 250 – 900 AD).  As the classic period wound down and the local situation worsened, increasingly dear sacrificial offerings were made increasingly far into the cave.  Tours extend as far as “The Crystal Maiden,” the calcified skeletal remains of a teenage girl sacrificed near the end of the classic — but she is only one of 14 individuals whose remains have been found in the cave, and less macabre offerings predominate anyway.

The Crystal Maiden

Sadly, in 2012 a tourist dropped their camera on one of the 1,000 year old skulls in the cave and fractured it — the skull was repaired to some degree, but as a result of that one tourist’s inattention, visitors are no longer allowed to bring cameras into the cave.