A major metropolis in its day, Edzná was situated at a crossroads between cities in modern-day Guatemala and the states of Chiapas and Yucatán. This "out-of-state" influence can be appreciated in its mélange of architectural elements. Roof combs and corbeled arches evoke those at Yaxchilán and Palenque, in Chiapas; giant stone masks resemble the Petén-style architecture of southern Campeche and northern Guatemala.
Edzná began as a humble agricultural settlement around 300 BC, reaching its pinnacle in the late classic period, between AD 600 and 900, then gradually waning in importance until being all but abandoned in the early 15th century. Today soft breezes blow through groves of slender trees where brilliant orange and black birds spring from branch to branch. Clouds scuttle across a blue backdrop, perfectly framing the mossy remains of once-great structures.
The best place to survey the site is from the 102-foot tall Pirámide de los Cinco Pisos, built on
the raised platform of the Gran Acrópolis (Great Acropolis). This five-story pyramid culminates in a tiny temple crowned by a roof comb. Hieroglyphs were carved into the vertical faces of the 15 steps between each level, and some were re-cemented in place by archaeologists, although not necessarily in the correct order. On these stones, as well as on stelae throughout the site, you can see faint depictions of the opulent attire once worn by the Maya ruling class—quetzal feathers, jade pectorals, and jaguar-skin skirts.
The Pirámide de los Cinco Pisos was constructed so that on certain dates the setting sun would illuminate the mask of the creator-god, Itzamna, inside one of the pyramid's rooms. This happens annually on May 1, 2, and 3, the beginning of the planting season for the Maya—then and now. It also occurs on August 7, 8, and 9, the days of harvesting and giving thanks. On the pyramid's top level sit the ruins of three temples and a ritual steam bath.
West of the Great Acropolis, the Puuc-style Plataforma de los Cuchillos (Platform of the Knives) was so named by the archaeological team that found a number of flint knives inside. To the south, four buildings surround a smaller structure called the Pequeña Acrópolis. Twin sun-god masks with huge protruding eyes, sharply filed teeth, and oversize tongues flank the Templo de los Mascarones (Temple of the Masks, or Building 414), adjacent to the Small Acropolis. The mask at bottom left (east) represents the rising sun; the right mask represents the setting sun.
If you're not driving, consider taking one of the inexpensive day trips offered by tour operators in Campeche. Convenience aside, a guide can point out features often missed by the untrained eye, such as the remains of arrow-straight sacbés. These raised roads in their day connected one important ceremonial building within the city to the next, and also linked Edzná to trading partners throughout the peninsula.