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Uxmal was occupied during the classic period and most of the visible buildings date from around the eighth and ninth centuries. It is also a town that survives into the historical period recorded at the time of the Spanish conquest. For a while in the 11th century it was part of the league of cities which included Chichen Itza. The centre of power then shifted to Mayapan until in 1441 the Xiu rulers of Uxmal threw off their yoke. During the conquest the Xiu family allied themselves with the Spaniards.
The Pyramid of the Magician, supposedly built in a single night, lies at the entrance to the site, unusual on two counts, firstly because of its rounded corners and secondly because, when it was reconstructed the additions were built not over the top, but just behind it, leaving the older stairway and temple still visible on one side.
The buildings are decorated with geometrical mosaics of stone. Our guide described the site as poetry in stone and the friezes were certainly invocations to Chac, the god of rain, and many of the creatures depicted were associated with water and fertility. There were reliefs of birds and the feathered serpent wound its way along the tops of the lengthy buildings. Perhaps the most perfect and most elaborate complex was the sc-called Nunnery with buildings around four sides of the quadrangle where the sound and light show was held. The Maya cleverly allowed for perspective to prevent distortion in the lines of the long buildings. Beyond the ball-court, which had rings rather than markers the House of the Governor stood in a prominent position near the Grand Pyramid. Probably its original function is represented by the name the Spaniards gave it. There is the figure of a ruler placed centrally on the long façade and in front of it is a jaguar throne on a raised dais.
To one side of the Governor's palace is the House of the Turtles, perhaps the simplest and most classical in style of the buildings with turtles on the cornice above the colonnades.