In the 1960s, the government began constructing a highway between Puerto
Juarez (the Cancun area) and Chetumal. It passes near or through many east coast
sites, including Muyil. During construction of the highway, a significant
portion (5.7 ha) of the Muyil site, and of other sites, such as Tancah and
Xelha, was destroyed.
Since the highway was completed in 1972, Muyil has had a full-time
guardian, Pedro Cobá Caamal, a native of nearby Chumpom and an employee of INAH.
He is mentioned in Peissel (1963) as living at the site in 1959 and 1962 and
serving as guide then. The site is open to the public daily under the auspices
of the Regional Center for Quintana Roo (CRQR) of INAH.
Tony Andrews published the results of numerous family expeditions to
the east coast, beginning in 1956, including visits to Muyil as part of their
own survey of east coast sites (Andrews IV and A. P. Andrews 1975). Will Andrews has frequently commented
that his father, E. Wyllys Andrews IV, stated that Muyil appeared to be a
Classic site (from its architecture) with a Postclassic overlay (Andrews V,
personal conversations, 1988-89). Our own research on the ceramics and
architecture of the site confirms his judgement.
Arthur Miller (1982:4) mentions an
unpublished manuscript of John Gifford (1977) which discusses
the geology of the Chunyaxche lagoon as it relates to Muyil. Gifford was part
of the underwater archaeological investigations at Xelha, Tancah, and Muyil,
reported in Farris and Miller (1974).
In 1979, Rafael Cobos P., of the Southeast
Regional Center (CRS, now CRY) of the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology
and History (INAH), surveyed a perimeter boundary to establish a formal
protected zone (Muyil A, the archaeological zone open to the public), and he
also established a protected zone (Muyil B) for a small group of ruins 2 km
north-northeast of the site center (and adjacent to the highway) which had not
previously been published. His survey of the perimeter of Muyil A was also
tied to structures within the perimeter, including Structure 12K-1 at the
Muyil lagoon, and Temple 8 (Structure 9K-1) (Cobos 1979).
Recently Barrera Rubio
et al. (1987) published
the mural paintings of Muyil as part of their documentation of all known
preconquest Maya mural paintings in Quintana Roo. In their work they republished
the site map of Peissel (1987:206) and published information about a group of
the "north group," which has been located by our 1988 field team 1.5 km
due north of the northern corner boundary marker of the Muyil A protected
zone. It may be reached by following the ejido boundary trail which
divides the Ejido Chumpom from the Ejido Pino Suarez. In all, they published a
plan of the upper temple of the Castillo (Structure 1, Structure 8K-13);
an exterior photo of the Pink Palace (Temple 8, Structure 9K-1),
five photographs (showing the color remaining on lintels and door jambs) of the
interior of the upper temple and its substructure, plans of the upper and lower
structures, and profiles of three facades; an exterior and interior (of colored
door jambs) of Temple 6 (Structure 7H-3), but no plan; a plan
and five photos of Structure 1 of the North Group, two showing remains of
murals; a plan and two photos of the temple at the Cenote group (Muyil B); and
remains from Structure 16 (Structure 8J-4) at the principal site,
Muyil A (1987:206-213). They also published six photos and a plan of the temple
at Vigía del Lago (1987:298-299).
In our own research, we documented all that Barrera Rubio et al.
published, and noted a few additional areas of painted plaster on other
structures, chiefly as door jambs outlined with wide blue panels and thin black
outlining. We did not find any murals at Muyil such as those found nearby at
Coba, Xelha, Playa del Carmen, El Rey, Cozumel, Tancah, and Tulum, but we infer
their presence in the past from the frequent occurrence of painted stucco
remains, especially door jamb panels.
A note about naming conventions is required here: In the literature, the
designations "Muyil" (Mason 1927), "Chunyaxche-Muyil" (Spinden
1926) and "Muyil A" (Cobos P. 1979) (Map 3) are used for the 38-ha protected
zone and its very close environs both west of the highway and to the south of
the unpaved road to the lagoon. Locally, this is called "Laguna
Muyil." The smaller site, formally designated "Muyil B" (Cobos P.
1979), is called the "Cenote Group" in Barrera Rubio et al. (1987) (4).
The group which Barrera Rubio labels "North Group" is called
"Muyil" locally. This group was not recorded by Cobos P. during his
survey. There are people from the ejido of Chumpom living at Muyil A in a
five-family hamlet known as Chunyaxche, and many written treatments of the site
(such as Peissel 1963 and some of my own) use "Chunyaxche" to refer
to Muyil A, the major protected zone.
I initiated a program of reconnaissance, survey, mapping, excavation, and
ceramic analysis at Muyil in 1987. The work of the first two field seasons has
been reported in Witschey (1987a, 1987b, 1987c, 1988a, 1988b, 1988c, 1989) and
Witschey and Trejo (1988). More discussion of this work follows below. The
results reported there include: new sites in the area, the sacbe system (4),
patterns of architectural alignments, extensive areas of residential
architecture, four anomalous earthen mounds along the east edge of the site at
the edge of the karstic shelf, and a long period of occupation for the site
(A.D. 1 - 1500, which we have now extended back to about 350 B.C.).
Many details of the 1990 field season are reported here for the first time.
Map 3 Muyil Zone A (approx. 1 km2 , 100 m between ticks)
Map 4 Muyil Zone B
Map 5 Sacbes
© Copyright 2000-2008 Walter R. T. Witschey Page last updated Thursday, April 03, 2008