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SAN GERVASIO, COZUMEL, MEXICO

San Gervasio is an archaeological site of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization, located at the approximate center of the island of Cozumel off the northeastern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. It is situated in what is now the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. The ruins were once a hub of worship to the goddess Ix Chel, the Maya Fertility Goddess. Pre-Columbian Maya people would travel to the site and make offerings at certain times of the year.

Most structures have roofs less than 4 feet (1.2 m) tall and include interior stone walls and exterior columns. Much of the shape of the structures and their roofs remain a mystery as they were enhanced by wood and straw when in their original condition. It is also speculated that further wood and straw huts surrounded many of the buildings, particularly the Plaza Central.

San Gervasio is a federal and state park of the United Mexican States and Quintana Roo.

The ruins and the various roads to and from each site are overgrown and there are numerous animals, particularly lizards of every size including iguanas that reach over 4 feet (1.2 m) long. As the roads are the only areas not completely shaded by the rain forest surrounding the ruins lizards sun themselves on the road throughout the park, and are relatively acclimatized to humans.

At the time these ruins were discovered by a Spanish landing party they had already been abandoned. It is likely that the diseases Maya caught following the introduction of Caucasian explorers made the support of a purely religious site such as this untenable. In the alternative, the loss of their native religion by the Maya and the introduction of Christianity may have instead been the reason for the abandonment of this site.

Structures

Manita Structure

Meaning: Little Hands

Constructed during: Terminal-Classic (1000-1200 A.D.)

Location: Southernmost site

The Manitas was probably the residence of the Ah Huneb Itza Overlord of Cozumel. It has an outer room that was probably a residence and an inner sanctum that was probably his personal shrine. The name of the building comes from red-colored hand prints on the interior walls.

Chi Chan Nah
Meaning:

Constructed during:

Location: Adjacent, to the East, of the Manita structure

This building consists of an internal and an external room and is the smallest building at San Gervasio. Although the meaning and construction period of this structure is known it was not included in the brochure used to generate this page. The exact purpose of this building remains a mystery, although, due to its architectural characteristics it is likely that it had a ritual function.

There are numerous grave markers in this area, possibly marking the graves of members of the family that resided in the Manitas structure.

Ka'na Nah Structure

Meaning: Tall House

Constructed during: Post-Classic (1200-1650 A.D.)

Location: Northwesternmost site

This is the largest single structure at San Gervasio. Due to certain architectural arrangements at the interior of the small temple on the top, it is believed that this structure was the center of worship to the goddess Ix Chel. As this is the most remote of all the ruin sites it is often covered in lizards. On the western side of the path to this site is a bench. Behind the bench are one of three natural holes in the ground that can be found throughout the ruins. These holes are called Cenotes (From the maya D'zonot, meaning well) and served as a water source for the inhabitants of the settlement.

El Arco

Meaning: The Arch

Constructed during: Post-Classic (1200-1650 A.D.)

Location: Northeast of Plaza Central, Northwest of Manitas and Chi Chan Nah

This arch is the main entrance from the north and west to Plaza Central. It is a simple arch about five feet tall that straddles the main road heading northeast from the Plaza. Structures of the same type can be found in northern Yucatan sites, such as Labná and Kabah.

Plaza Central

Meaning: Central Plaza

Constructed during: Post-Classic (1200-1650 A.D.)

Location: Southwestern most part of the site

Although the Ka'na Nah structure is taller, the Plaza consists of numerous small buildings in a square shape facing inward very similar to a Roman Forum. There are nine buildings in all, although it is theorized there were wood and straw buildings in the area and that the Plaza buildings themselves were larger than they appear today due to wooden extensions. Most of the wooden structures likely existed between the Plaza and the Manitas structure.

The Plaza buildings had varied purposes. The largest single building in the northwest corner was the large home of a wealthy noble family. For perspective, this large home consists of three rooms while most families shared a single wood and straw hut at the time. The other plaza buildings include storage rooms, shops and a couple temples.

Nohoch Nah

Meaning: Big House Structure

Constructed during: Terminal-Classic (1000-1200 A.D.) and Post-Classic (1200-1650 A.D.)

Location: Northeastern most part of the site

This large circular building still retains its roof and a large central room. This building is the best preserved of the ruins and still has red, ochre and blue coloration on the interior walls. The purpose of this building is the least well-understood of all buildings at San Gervasio, however, it is speculated that due to its isolation and location, on the main road to the site, its function be ceremonial.

The interior of building is not open to preserve the interior wall coloration but there are no doors, so the interior can be seen to a degree from the outside.

Murcielagos

Meaning: Bats Structure

Constructed during: Late-Classic (600-1000 A.D.)

Location: Northeast of Plaza Central, Northwest of El Arco

This large structure is reminiscent of the Plaza. It contains a number of small buildings on the rise of a small artificial stone hill. The structures are more haphazard both in their construction and organization when compared with the Plaza.

This site was the first stone structure build at San Gervasio. Its purpose was a combination of the Plaza and Ka'na Nah sites; for shopping, storage, residences of the wealthy, and worship of Ix Chel. After San Gervasio became more popular the Plaza and Ka'na Nah sites were build later to support the greater demand of pilgrims.


March 2010

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