A Twentieth Century Maya Temple!

Puuc Jungle – Campeche State, Mexico

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner

During the mid-20th century, a Maya community somewhere in the Puuc Hills region constructed a temple atop an ancient earthen mound veneered with stone. It was a temple for the common folk. I saw ruins of such temples in the jungles and scrub forests of the southern Mexico, but this is the only one, which was obviously still in use.

A Maya milpa on the edge of the jungle – next to the temple.

You will be seeing things that very few people have ever seen and probably will never see. I am finishing up the third video of the three part series on the “Mayas of Campeche.” It covers the three days that future anthropologist Ana Rojas and I spent wandering through the Tierra Incognito in the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula . . . the eastern Puuc Hills Region.

We both were about to enter our senior year in college, but would eventually obtain eight years of university education. Throughout those future years of post-graduate courses, we both considered each other the ideal mate for a lifetime . . . but the internet didn’t exist and our lives always seemed to be out of sync with the other.

The Puuc Hills formed an enormous blank area on state and national road maps. We never were really sure if we were in Campeche, Yucatan, Quintana Roo or Guatemala! Being before the days of GPS Navigation Satellites, all we had for navigation was a compass.

Back then, that region had no electrical or telephone lines, almost no paved roads, no stores, no gasoline stations, almost no signs, no fences and very few automobiles or trucks. We could go hours on the one lane dirt roads without seeing another vehicle. We also never saw a person riding a horse or burro . . . not even mule-drawn wagons. There were some ancient stacked stone walls, which functioned as fences in Maya hamlets. There was no visible evidence of any level of government or law enforcement agencies. On the other hand, crime and violence were virtually non-existent.

Unless they were hitching a ride on an old farm truck, the Maya people walked everywhere. Their lives were very little different than those of their ancestors a thousand year earlier. Ana and I were one of the last people to see this ancient way of life before the Mexican and Campeche government began digging wells, paving roads and constructing local electrical power plants in larger villages.

A remote Maya village on the graveled “state highway.”

Forgotten color slides

The photo above was among 72 color slides that I took on this amazing adventure. I dropped them off to be developed at the Kodak Lab in Atlanta in mid-September 1970. They were mailed back in early October. By then I was extremely busy with school, so took the slides from their Kodak container and tightly packed them in a metal slide storage box. For five decades, these slides were never removed from the steel box to be fried by a slide projector or exposed to dust, lint and bacteria. It only took a brief amount of computer work to restore the digitized copies to their original color. Nevertheless, I was stunned this morning, when I first viewed the Maya temple for the first time.

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