Houses of the Holy
Yaxchilan is a Maya archaeological site strategically situated on a protected hill surrounded by a meander in the Usumacinta River. The site is oddly reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy and Stairway to Heaven. The grand stairway leading from the riverside terrace up to the hillside temples looks eerily similar to the original Houses of the Holy album cover with several purplish children climbing a stone staircase. Since the structures were used in religious practices, you might feel the stairs are a Stairway to Heaven, or at least to the heavenly. However, when you consider the nature of the religious processions and rituals carried out by the Maya priests in these temples you may be incline to call it the Stairway to Hell. Yaxchilan is famed amongst Maya archaeologists for the use of stone doorway lintels throughout the site featuring finely incised scenes accompanied by captions describing bloodletting rituals and the capture and subsequent sacrifice of rival lords from surrounding Maya kingdoms. In fact, the captions give the names of the elite lords involved in the brutal and bloody rituals as well as the exact date each scene occurred, allowing archaeologists unique insight into the history of Yaxchilan and its neighbors. Access to Yaxchilan is easily arranged in the town of Palenque, Chiapas as a long day trip that includes the equally incredible Maya site of Bonampak and the magnificently aquamarine Agua Azul waterfall.
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