Labna - The Walls of Wisdom of Mother Earth
Labna, the last Maya archaeological site along the “Puuc Route,” is a mid-sized ceremonial center and elite residential complex found about 24.5 miles (40 km) southeast of Uxmal in the State of Yucatan.
Each of the four restored ruins at Labna has its own distinct identity. But like so many of these preserved ruins, Labná is more than just an example of the Puuc architectural style. There is an energy here, one that visitors recognize the moment they step on the land.
The Meaning of Labna
The name Labná is often translated to mean “Old House.”
But I spent some time with a Maya shaman and master teacher, Don Miguel Angel Vergara, who believes this meaning is incomplete. That the indigenous understanding of the word “Labná” actually translates to “Walls of Wisdom of Mother Earth.”
In the original Yucatec Mayan language, the word, “lab” means old. “Na” means both “house/temple” and “mother,” potentially leading to the mistranslation.
The sacred architecture on site corroborates this idea. There is a free-standing wall next to El Arco (the famous Arch of Labná) that depicts a Caban Curl, a “C” shaped motif symbolizing the rhythm or vital life force of mother earth herself. Caban is also understood as a symbol for the creative principle in her role as the moon goddess, or the first mother.
These symbols lend credence to indigenous wisdom teaching.
The History of Labna and Its Notable Architecture
Early occupation at Labná dates back to 200 BCE when the Maya lived in thatch roof homes. Because of the materials used in construction at the time (largely wood and palm), most of those dwellings faded with time. The four restored structures that are visible today date to the Classic Period between 750 and 1000 AD. Not only did Labná change the way they constructed their domain, but this was also when the city rose to prominence within Maya history.
Still, Labná was not a big city, even by the standards at the time. At most, there were 2,500 residents at its peak. The city itself only covers about 1.25 square miles. Some of its most notable structures include:
- El Palacio – The Great Palace
- El Arco – The Arch of Labná
- El Mirador – The Pyramid Temple
The Most Curious and Extraordinary Structure
The Tower of El Mirador was once called “The Most Curious and Extraordinary Structure” by the explorer John Lloyd Stephens. The larger structures are on the north side of the valley. There are still other areas that are standing, including the residential area called “The Twins.”
Labná may be one of the smaller archaeological sites, but we can learn a lot from the area. For example, the people of Labná depended on rain for most of their survival, using it not only for crops but also for storing it in an Aguada (sealed natural depression) and over 70 chultunes (domestic, underground cisterns) for water during the dry seasons.