In my (inexpert) opinion, there are two types of archeological sites. The first one is rigid, monumental, imposing, interesting, reconstructed. It’s become a contemporary statement of a past civilization, largely zapped of its whispers. Chichen Itza, gorgeous, grand, trampled, is a good illustration of this, my first category.
The second is crumbling piles of rocks under dense vegetation. Due to a perpetual lack of government funds, reconstruction is minimal, so that it still stands, but barely, a defiant example of time’s utter lack of mercy.
Tall trees grow on the pyramids, the tangle of centenary roots proof that the elements that destroy a structure are often also what hold it together.
During a visit, as you scramble up hundreds of steps, you silently refute the guide’s explanations because you have your own secret hypothesis of what that room was once used for.
In this second category, you feel a gust of fresh breeze on a hot, humid day and hear, beneath the rustling of leaves, the faint echo of footsteps, the unintelligible whispers of former inhabitants.
Campeche is, inexplicably, the least visited of the Yucatan states. Among other things (fantastic food, lovely people and a town so beautiful it’s considered a World Heritage Site), it holds perhaps hundreds of Maya ruins that belong squarely in my second category, which Luca and I explored in utter, complete, absolute solitude.
Calakmul, the largest of the sites (a 72 square km expanse that has been minimally restored due to ecological regulations), is found a few miles into Mexico’s largest biosphere reserve, in the middle of the low jungle.
Maybe you can go visit one day, and hear for yourself the whispers I speak of. With any luck, you'll make out the words and come back and tell me what they are saying.
Photo by Luca