Aké (Yucatan, Mexico)
The Battle of Aké and the Conquest of Yucatan.
By Nicoletta Maestri
Aké is an important Maya site in northern Yucatan, around 20 miles from Mérida. The site lies within the terrains of an early 20th century henequen plant, a fiber used to produce ropes, cordage and basketry among other things. This industry was particularly prosperous in Yucatan, especially before the advent of synthetic fabrics. Some of the plant facilities are still in place, and a small church exists on top of one of the ancient mounds.
Aké was occupied for a very long time, beginning in the Late Preclassic, around 350 BC, to the Postclassic period, when the place played an important role in the Spanish conquest of Yucatan. Aké was one of the last ruins to be visited by the famous explorers Stephens and Catherwood in their last trip to Yucatan. In their book, Incident of Travels in Yucatan, they left a detailed description of its monuments.
The site core of Ake covers more than two hectares, and there are many more building complexes within the a dispersed residential area. Aké reached its maximum development in the Classic period, between AD 300 and 800, when the whole settlement reached an extension of four km2, and it became one of the most important Mayan center of northern Yucatan. From the site core a series of sacbeob (causeways) connected the city with other nearby centers. The largest of these, which is almost 13 meters wide and 32 kilometers long, connected Aké with the city of Izamal.
Ake's core is composed of a series of long buildings, arranged in a central plaza and bounded by a semi-circular wall. The north side of the plaza is marked by Building 1, called Building of the Columns, the most impressive construction of the site. This is a long rectangular platform, accessible from the plaza through a massive stairway, several meters wide. The top of the platform is occupied by a series of 35 columns, which would have probably supported a roof in antiquity. Sometimes called the palace, this building seems to have had a public function.
The site also includes two cenotes, one of which is near Structure 2, in the main plaza. Several other smaller sinkholes provided the community with fresh water.
Later in time, two concentric walls were constructed: one around the main plaza and a second one around the residential area surrounding it. It is unclear if the wall had a defensive function, but it certainly limited the access to the site, since the causeways, once connecting Aké to neighboring centers, were cross-cut by the construction of the wall.
Aké and the Spanish Conquest of Yucatan
Aké played an important role in the conquest of Yucatan carried out by Spanish conquistador Francisco de Montejo. Montejo arrived in Yucatan in 1527 with three ships and 400 men. He managed to conquer many Maya towns, but not without encountering a fiery resistance. At Aké, one of the decisive battles took place, where more than 1000 Maya were killed. Despite this victory, the conquest of Yucatan would be completed only after 20 years, in 1546.