Peissel (1963) recorded architecture and published a sketch map of major structures at the site center.
Map 2. Muyil (Peissel 1963:286)
His initial steps for a journey along the east coast of Quintana Roo included a
visit to Dr. Alberto Ruz Lhuillier of INAH in Merida, who was the discoverer of
Pacal's tomb in the Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque. Ruz said, "The
coast ... is entirely uninhabited except for three places — Puerto Morelos to
the north, Tankah in the center, and Xcalak at the border of British Honduras
[Belize]." (Peissel 1963:31). He also mentioned that an airstrip had been
cleared at Tancah. His final words to Peissel were, "Be careful. You know
it's a dangerous and hostile coast."
Peissel arrived on foot at Muyil after traveling by train from central
Mexico to Merida, by bus from Merida to Puerto Morelos, and onward by launch to
Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, and the east coast of Quintana Roo near Paamul. His first
recognition of the Castillo at Muyil:
And there to my amazement, soaring skyward above the summits of the
tallest trees, and glaring at me through a narrow dark opening amidst them, was
a small temple-like structure standing on what was to prove a mighty pyramid,
the famous temple Canché had spoken to me about, the one higher than the
Castillo of Tulum.
the summit, he saw the Caribbean. That same day, his guide led him to the
"Pink Palace" (Temple 8, Structure 9K-1):
It was a large pinkish-stuccoed structure perched upon a high platform.
... Its western end [actually the northern end — WRTW]
had the remains of a large stairway that led to the summit of the platform on
which was erected the square palace, with two large circular columns that had
once supported the now partly crumbled roof of the main entrance. Beyond the
entrance were three small rooms, now but a pile of rubble, one being filled with
a giant anthill.
There were no traces of paintings on the walls of the building, which I
call the "pink palace," but at the entrance where the lintel had
partly collapsed could be seen a great, ancient wooden beam, possibly a thousand
years old. Many such wooden lintels had, I knew, already been discovered, and
are priceless when found in that they help date a site through carbon tests. I
took a small specimen from the dry rotted beam. (Peissel 1963:168).
radiocarbon date has been published for this lintel, and the lintel was no
longer at Muyil in 1987. See below for a radiocarbon date from a lintel of the
Castillo, Structure 8I-13. Peissel also viewed the Entrance Plaza
Group and other structures on his visit. He said, prophetically for me:
... thousands of hours of patient work would be necessary to carry out a
thorough archaeological survey of such a huge site as this.
... here was a great complex of Maya ruins worthy of further exploration
and study (Peissel 1963:169).
Peissel's visit ended abruptly when his guide determined to depart for
Capechen closer to the coast. His next visit was three years later in 1962.
During the interval, he learned of the Mason-Spinden Expedition, and located the
Castillo (Structure 8I-13) on the aerial photographs taken by Charles Lindburgh
in 1929. His research at this time led him to believe that Muyil, like all but
one other site he visited, belonged to the Late Postclassic ("Mayapan"
era - A.D. 1250-1450, Peissel 1963:260)
By the time Peissel returned, tourists had come to Cozumel, and bone
fishing in the Muyil and Chunyaxche lagoons had attracted a sportsmen's camp to
Boca Paila and numerous visitors to Muyil.
He began his second season in Muyil in 1962 by measuring the Castillo
(Structure 8I-13). He notes that on the supporting platform were
... six small structures like oratories. These oratories resembled small
bunkers with no openings except for a low door on one side. The oratories were
too small to have admitted human beings with comfort and were once probably
minute chapels sheltering idols. (Peissel 1963:287)
These small structures are no longer intact, but their supporting low
platforms and rubble remains were mapped during our survey of 1987. Peissel
encountered the end of a sacbe (Sacbe 1) running "many hundreds
of yards northwestward ... toward Tulum." (Peissel 1963:288). He also
penetrated the inner chambers of Temple 8 (Structure 9K-1) as had
members of the Mason-Spinden Expedition. The interior had been looted by
breaking up the small altars against the rear wall of the inner temple. He noted
the large wall surrounding the Temple 8 precinct and the numerous
structures within and adjacent to it. He recorded the large upright stones that
form the edge of the large platform (Structure 9K-14) just to the
northeast of Temple 8.
Peissel and Pedro Cobá Caamal discovered a piece of sculpture in the
rubble of Structure 12H-1, the temple nearest the Muyil lagoon at the
easternmost end of the sacbes:
... I was soon looking into the eyes of a large sculptured head with
protruding slit eyes: those of a strange idol, the most beautiful piece of
sculpture that I had yet discovered on the coast. About three feet high and one
foot wide, the idol was too heavy to be transported. With the reluctant help of
Coba-Cama, we therefore made a shelter for it under large blocks of stone. (Peissel
Photograph 7. Peissel and idol from Muyil (Peissel
whereabouts of this sculpture could not be determined during our own field work.
In all, Peissel recorded 108 structures at the site, including
... twelve pyramids, five large palaces, nine temples (single- or
double-room buildings, mostly with columned entrances), a dozen platforms,
more than twenty small oratories or shrines, most of which were still standing,
many mounds, and over half a dozen crumbled buildings with still apparent
intricate floor plans. Chunyaxche [Muyil] now spread over an area of close to
one square mile. (Peissel 1963:299)
After a ten-day visit, he departed, closing his account by saying:
Archaeologists will eventually one day take over Quintana Roo, and study
to the core the temples, the pyramids, the palaces, and the oratories that I
have found, but till then they will remain in a way my own, and Quintana Roo the
mysterious land of the last independent Maya. (Peissel 1963:300)
© Copyright 2000-2005 Walter R. T. Witschey Page last updated Wednesday, April 02, 2008