Ek’ BalamA Maya city in the urban landscape of Yucatan
Ek’ Balam provides a view of an urban landscape from the perspective of the northern Lowlands. Though Ek’ Balam lacks the managed streams of Palenque and the agricultural terraces of Caracol, it shared with southern Lowlands cities a remarkable refinement in hieroglyphic script, the use of the long count calendar, the use of an emblem glyph, and institutions such as the k’uhul ajaw (divine lord) and the kalomte (regional overlord). Ek’ Balam reached its apogee at the end of the Late Classic under the ruler Ukit Kan Lek Tok’, who commissioned the construction of the massive Acropolis at the end of the 8th century and imported Chenes-style architectural decoration, including a building façade featuring a massive zoomorphic plaster mask whose mouth opened to an interior room under which Ukit Kan Lek Tok’ would soon be buried. Three successive rulers are mentioned in Ek’ Balam’s inscriptions and texts at Chichen Itza record visits and the performance of rituals by one of these rulers in the early 9th century. By the late 9th century, Ek’ Balam declined and Chichen Itza replaced it as the chief power in the northern Lowlands.