Until a few years ago very little was known about the site in the northeast of Yucatán, whose name translated means ‘black Jaguar’.
Extensive excavation and restoration work has shown that Ek’ Balám was both a great and an important centre of the Mayan late classical period. It was the ruling seat of the Tah Empire, to which the tribes of Eastern Yucatán and the Gulf Coast paid tribute. The latter can be derived from the large number of mussels found among the offerings. While Ek’ Balám has many typical features of Mayan architecture, it also has extraordinary characteristics that are unparalleled. These unique elements include depictions of creatures with wings, not unlike our idea of angels. Ek’ Balam was also not part of the Kukulkán cult; in fact on large stucco masks, friezes and stone statues, representations of the jaguar or the images of rulers dominate.
At its heyday (800-1000 A.D.) the city covered an area of 12km² with an estimated population between 12000 and 18000.
A good location from which to visit both Ek Balám and Chichén Itzá is the colonial town of Valladolid. In the sites museum one can also prepare well for the visit, since there is hardly any information on site.