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            Peissel (1963) recorded architecture and published a sketch map of major structures at the site center. 

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Map 2. Muyil (Peissel 1963:286)
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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.

From 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).

No 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 1963:297)  


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Photograph 7. Peissel and idol from Muyil (Peissel 1963:148)
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The 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) insert Peissel pictures here

            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