Ek Balam

Ek Balam

Ek Balam - Ancient Ruins of the Yucatan

Ek Balam tomb of Ukit Kan Lek Tokʼ

Ek Balam was an important political and commercial center from the pre to post classic periods (700 – 1100 AD) before it was abruptly abandoned. Although Ek Balam sits only 25 km (16 miles) north of Valladolid and 56 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Chichen Itza, Ek Balam sees far fewer tourists.

maya mayan man ek balam
Karina Itzcoatl Ek Balam

The site’s significance has only recently been revealed. The Acropolis at Ek Balam, a large pyramidal structure, houses the tomb of the great shamanic King Ukit Kan Lek Tok’, (Father of Four Flints) where the original plaster is still well preserved with intense, powerful detail. Restoration work at the site only really began in the 1990s, and soon after they discovered a well-preserved stucco frieze hidden under a mound.

Ek Balam Acropolis
Entrance to the Tomb of the great shamanic ruler, Ukit Kan Lek Tok', Father of Four Flints. | Photo by Anyextee, 2015 www.AdeptExpeditions.com

Since then, Ek Balam has become a fascination of Maya scholars and travelers alike, even more so because so much of this largely unstudied area remains a mystery. 

The Meaning of Ek Balam

ek balam tait anyextee
Replica of Ek Balam emblem glyph by the entrance of the archaeological site.

The name Ek Balam is of Yucatec Maya origin. Ek translates to “black” or “dark” but can also mean “star” while Balam translates to “jaguar.” Thus the name “Ek Balam” translates to some variation of “Black Jaguar” or “Star Jaguar,” or perhaps as a combination of both.

Ek Balam is the name given to the site by archaeologists. The name is based on the site’s emblem glyph. However, the capital city may have belonged to the Maya kingdom of “Talol,” founded by the shamanic ruler, Ek’ Balam, or Coch Cal Balam, before being dominated by the Cupul family.

The History of Ek Balam

Archeologists believe that it was founded around 300 BC, becoming an important commercial center when its influence peaked between 700 – 1100 AD. 

Acropolis at Ek Balam
The Acropolis at Ek Balam. | Photo taken by Anyextee, 2015 www.AdeptExpeditions.com

Symbolic Architecture

Ek Balam site map
Ek Balam Site Map
Ek Balam

Ek Balam’s architecture is pure Maya. Unlike neighboring Chichen Itza – showing signs of Toltec fusion, Ek Balam was never merged. The sites ancient architects employed and adapted a Northern Petén style, similar to other regional cities at the time. As Ek Balam maintained its independence so too did the architectural style maintain its Maya roots.

Symbolism in Stone

Ek Balam is surrounded by two concentric walls, which are rare in Maya cities. Becan and Tulum, two other Maya cities, built defensive walls to protect against invading groups, but Ek Balam’s walls are too low, so the archaeologists believe it is more likely they were used to enforce divisions within the society. However, rather than serving a functional purpose, it is possible the circular enclosure is purely symbolic.

anyetee points to symbolic stone at ek balam
Ek Balam defensive wall Anyextee adept expeditions 2

When I explored the site myself, I also noticed shim-stones that were deliberately worked into the masonry to resemble a serpent-like pattern, reinforcing the idea that the walls were symbolic.

Ek Balam serpent symbolism Anyextee
Anyextee points to what may be the head of a symbolic serpent-like motif on the so-called defensive wall at Ek Balam, 2015 | www.AdeptExpeditions.com

After my discovery of the serpent symbolism on the defensive walls at the site, we began taking a closer look. During one of our Mysteries of the Maya tours of the Yucatan, our expedition group discovered a serpent-like pattern wrapping around the entire exterior of the Acropolis. To date this information has not been published anywhere else online. More detail is published in my book, Water Wizards

Symbolism in Stone at Ek Balam with Anyextee

Pursuing this further, we can see a symbolic serpent stela featured at the base of the Acropolis before catching a glimpse of the so-called unusual winged warriors discovered at Ek Balam.

Anyextee Serpent symbolism Ek Balam
Anyextee points to the Ek Balam emblem glyph carved into the tongue of the serpent at the base of the Acropolis. 2017 www.AdeptExpeditions.com - Slide taken from Anyextee's presentation for the 11th CPAK (Conference on Precession and Ancient Knowledge) in Newport Beach, CA

Mayan hieroglyphs carved into the serpent’s split tongue can be read horizontally. The message provides a warning for visitors that approach the stairway of the ruler, Ukit Kan Le’k Tok, sacred king of Talol. 

The very last glyph refers to all of the previous text. It conveys a meaning similar to “So mote it be”, a ritual phrase used by the Freemasons, in Rosicrucianism.

Ek Balam Serpent Symbolism Anyextee 1
Ek Balam Serpent Symbolism Anyextee 2
Ek Balam Serpent Symbolism Anyextee 3
Ek Balam Serpent Symbolism Anyextee 4
Ek Balam tomb of Ukit Kan Lek Tokʼ

Some of Ek Balam’s most notable structures include:

  • The Acropolis
  • The Entrance Arch
  • The Oval Palace
  • The Ball Court
  • The Twins

What is to be Discovered at Ek Balam?

The more adventurous explorers travel here when they want to feel that “Indiana Jones” sense of adventure. Many of the ruins, including the largest, raised platforms and several mounds on-site, are still unexcavated to this day. There are potentially countless well preserved historical artifacts yet to be discovered. What lies below the piles of rubble?

hidden ek balam

One thing you will find there is the Sacbe, meaning “White Road,” which stem off the center in the four cardinal directions, symbolizing the concept of a “four part cosmos.” 

Ek Balam site map

You can spend some of your time climbing the Acropolis. The Acropolis houses El Trono (the Throne), which is the location of the king Ukit Kan Leʼk Tok’ tomb who ruled at beginning of the city’s peak. Some notable features are restricted from view. For example the Mural of the 96 Glyphs, a fascinating and calligraphy rich wall painting and a wall painting with a hunted dear, part of a mythological story about the origin of death, and a series of vault capstones depicting K’awiil, the lightning deity are all hidden inside the Acropolis.

Ek Balam Acropolis
El Throno (The Throne) - Entrance to the Tomb of the great shamanic king Ukit Kan Lek Tok

Making up for what you don’t see inside the Acropolis is what you do see with the view from the top. It is said that on a clear day, from the top one can see the temples of Coba and Chichen Itza on the horizon. I’ve been to the top many times and I’m yet to see either. However, in the distance one can see mounds that may be pyramids or temples buried by dense vegetation.

360 view of Ek Balam Acropolis
View from the top Acropolis ek Balam Yucatan
View from the top of the Acropolis. | Photo taken by Anyextee, 2019 www.AdeptExpeditions.com
Ek Balam view from the top of the Acropolis
View from the top of the Acropolis at Ek Balam. Pyramids in the background. | Selfie taken 2019 www.AdeptExpeditions.com

Ek Balam remains a place of immense fascination. It was rediscovered in the late 1800s by Désiré Charnay, mapped in the late 1980s by Bill Ringle and George Bey III, and the Acropolis excavated by Leticia Vargas de la Peña and Víctor Castillo, but to this day there is so much that remains undiscovered, and to those that take an esoteric approach to exploration, so much that we can learn from it as well. 

ek balam adept expeditions
2017 Adept Expeditions 'Mysteries of the Maya Tour of Yucatan'

Location of Ek Balam

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