Site Setting
Dissertation and all web site contents copyright 2008 Bradley W. Russell

The archaeological site of Mayapán is located 40km southeast of the modern city of Merida (Figure 2.1).  
Traditionally the Q-162 radial pyramid, known as the Temple of Kukulkan, has been considered the
center of the site.  Morris Jones’ 1957 map gives the location of the pyramid in latitude 89°27’41.40”and
longitude 20°37’47.88”.  For our purposes UTM coordinates 243559E and 2283065N are more useful.  
Today much of the Main Plaza is restored and open to the public due to work of Carlos Peraza Lope and I.
N.A.H. Yucatán.  Other areas of the site not directly controlled by I.N.A.H., both inside and outside of the
city wall, are largely controlled and parceled out to local ejido land cooperatives or individual landowners.  
As a result of this land-use pattern, at any one time there are a variety of ground conditions covering the
full site.  The current vegetation of the area is best described as a secondary, dry scrub brush/low forest
mixed with cactus and often knitted together by vines.  At its worst, it is impossible to move through
without constant cutting.  One the other end of the scale, ejido farmers clear a rotating patchwork of milpa
fields in which they grow maize, beans, squash, watermelons, mangos, papayas and other crops.  Citrus
fruit such as oranges and limes are often grown within the domestic housegroups of the local residents.  
Typically, these plots remain cleared for a few years then they are left to lay fallow for up to 20 years.  It is
worth noting that modern farmers prefer the land in the areas of the site with the densest ancient
habitation for their milpa plots as the anthropogenic soils generated by the Postclassic occupation are
richer in nutrients (Brown 1999).  Other areas of the site serve as grazing land for cattle.  Most often cattle
are kept around water bearing sinkholes known locally as cenotes.  These water sources are as critical
for the survival of the cattle today as they were to Mayapán’s inhabitants in its time.  

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