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Day Trip to the salt mines - Yucatan

Another warm day in Merida yesterday so we headed to the coast some 25 KM to the north of the city. But we left a bit late and decided to Thai one on at the amazing Casa de los Lotos (The Lotus House) restaurant in picturesque Baca.

On the way to San Cristano the contemporary salt mining operation is interesting. The pools can present in many shades of pink. Here's a example:

After passing the marina at Telchac Puerto and seeing all the coastal residential development you reach the turn off to the Xcambo archaeological site. Here is where you'll want to stop to get a quick look at how the salt flats looked in more ancient times - this is the source of wealth that fueled the growth Xcambo in the Classic period. It's called Xtampu.

You will find the site of Xcambo a bit south from Xtampu. The site is compact and not frequented by hoardes of tourists. Physically the site is on a oval shaped hill that measures 750 x 125 meters. The west plaza is of the most interest. Ironically, the first thing you may notice upon entering the plaza is the small post-conquest church built with the stones from the site. Xcambo was sparsely inhabited in preclassic times, certainly by 400 BC. But by the early classic (circa 200 AD) the first platforms were built in the early megalithic style. Not much of this construction is visible today (although there are some early classic masks that have been exposed by the archaeological excavations). In the early and mid-classic Izamal was the main source of political power with a dominant position throughout the region. The population consisted of workers and administrators with little ritual activity noted.

From approximately 550 AD the picture changed. With the upheavals throughout the Lowland Maya region, the Yucatan was also impacted. In the Late Classic period, Xcambo apparently was ruled locally. The bioarchaeology is clear: the elite grew in size and elite males started living longer and engaged in little or no physical labor. In this period, there was a very large construction phase that completely changed the site. Most of the architecture we see comes from this time frame.

Classic Peten (left) and hybrid architecture (right)

In terms of trade, the late classic shows high degree of contact with the Tabasco area as well as with the Peten, and Calakmul in particular. Almost 25% of the human remains studied were foreign in origin. The most significant non-local residents came all the way from Calakmul, showing the long reach of this mega-city after supplanting Tikal in the Peten.

The site was abandoned around 750 AD. Changes in trade relationships and routes are seen as the cause of this decline. Later on in the Post-Classic, there was a period of re-occupation and building of elite residences.

All in all a nice, compact fun site!

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