Coba: human sacrifice and scary heights!

Coba: main pyramid

Sadly, many who come to this part of Mexico stay cocooned in their holiday resorts,

Cycle taxis for the lazy!

doing little more than sunbathing or wallowing in a pool with a tequila sour or pina colada in hand. They may occasionally venture out on an expensive organised tour, being picked up at their resort and taken to a distant location whilst being fed and watered en route, given lunch at the venue and plied with cocktails and tequila on the journey back (tipsy passengers are much more generous with tips!). The day we visited Tulum, we could have paid $200US on one such tour, but opted instead to pick up a local minibus used by Mexicans (called a “colectivo”), arrange our own entry to the ruins, and it cost us the princely sum of $16 all inclusive. And we got to meet some very interesting people.

Coba. Today, Rachael’s friend Zuleima picked us up at the hotel and we drove the 80kms

Zuleima & Rachael

inland to the much less visited site of the Mayan ruins at Coba. This extensive site has one of the few pyramids that the public are still allowed to climb. But first a little about its history. Before Chichen Itza challenged its power, Coba had been the greatest Mayan city in the Yucatan, but declined from about 860AD. Its construction had been spread over a huge area, situated between two lakes, and its was famed for the longest road ever being built in these parts (nearly 100kms long).

Begining the climb!

Like most Mayan ruins, the central pyramid commands attention, but so also do the ball courts, scenes of the famous ballgames that inevitably

Ball court

resulted in the sacrifice of the captain of the losing team. In the case of Coba (and this is very much open to question) sacrifices were conducted by a priest at the top of the pyramid, the heart was torn out and the decapitated head was allowed to roll down the steps to the bottom.

Human sacrifice was certainly not peculiar to the Mayans.

Scary descent!

All the indigenous communities of Meso-America (all of whom had migrated over the Bering straits from Asia over 40,000 years ago) had similar sacrificial practices to appease the gods and ensure future

Descending is easy!

wealth, health and happiness. The Aztecs, however, were probably the league champions in this field. They would raid communities near and far, take thousands of prisoners, and sacrifice them in a manner that we would call ‘genocide’ today.

That’s Jenny at the bottom!

Climbing these pyramids is definitely not for the feint of heart. Going up is the easy bit. Your head doesn’t have to negotiate the head-spinning reality of the sheer fall. Coming down, however, is when some wished they had never opted to climb to the top! The reward at the top is a sweeping panorama of the Yucatan landscape, revealing the tops of other temples and pyramids in the area.

About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on February 5, 2011, in Letters from Mexico and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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