There are few things more exciting than stumbling across an archaeological site you didn’t know existed. This is exactly what happened to me a couple of months ago when going out to Kanasín to visit my mother-in-law.
Since that time, I have returned to this site a handful of times trying to learn more about this enigmatic place, get some better photos, and make some rough sketches.
In the Yucatec-Maya language, Xiol roughly translates as “spirit of man.” But this name was only recently given to this ancient site by the INAH, as its original name has been lost to time.
Archaeological reconstruction at Xiol was mostly completed just before the outbreak of the pandemic, so people are just now starting to discover its wonders.
The observable archaeological site is made up of seven restored Puuc-style structures and dates to the late classic period, which is to say from roughly 600 to 800 CE.
Within the surrounding jungle, another 30 structures have been found, though they still remain untouched.
By all reports, the INAH and the landowners have reportedly been working well together. But one can’t help but be a bit concerned for the structures that still remain unrestored in the low-lying jungle and may be threatened by nearby construction projects and industrial activities.
The core of Xiol’s ceremonial center is made up of five structures. The largest and most imposing of these is a complex made up of a ceremonial platform sitting next to a small pyramid-like structure.
Both of these structures that make up Xiol’s largest architectural complex bear evidence of ceremonial use and the remains of stone altars.
Directly across from the previously described complex, and closest to the highway, lay a structure leading towards a small geological opening, which turns out to be a cenote.
It is likely that this cenote was the main source of water for Xiol’s population, though given its location in the middle of the ceremonial center it may have had more ritualistic uses and connotations.
On either side of the main ceremonial center sit two low-laying platforms.
A few hundred meters south of the main ceremonial center lays a beautiful Puuc-style structure.
Given its location in the context of the site, it is likely that this structure served as a residential area for members of the city’s elite, though it is hard to know for sure.
It is interesting to note that although the Puuc influence at Xiol is undeniable, one of the Puuc styles defining characteristics appears to be absent — this being Chaac rain god masks. This is likely due to the natural abundance of water in the area as opposed to the Puuc zone, which is much more reliant on rain.
Another similar residential structure, also gated off sits a few hundred meters to the north of the main ceremonial center.
Surrounding this structure it is also possible to observe several stone tools including metates used to process corn.
Within the site, archaeologists also discovered 38 funerary deposits complete with offerings that included ceramics, jewelry, and obsidian tools.
Other notable finds include carved stone heads which for reasons which are understandable have been removed from the site to avoid pillaging.
If you go
If you decide to visit Xiol keep in mind that the site is not officially open to the public and lay entirely on private land owned by a Chinese conglomerate. That being said at the main ceremonial center there are no signs, barriers, or guards indicating one to keep out.
But as previously mentioned a couple of the structures outside the site’s main core are indeed gated off. As long as you don’t try to jump the gate or do anything stupid, I don’t really foresee any problems.