Ek'Balam is an ancient Mayan city located 190 km (119 miles) east of Merida and 160 km (100 miles) west of Cancun. It is unfortunate that so few travelers know of it, because Ek'Balam may contain one of the finest Mayan sculptures in the Yucatan. It also holds the record as one of the longest continuously inhabited communities in the area. The Mayans first settled it in 100 B.C. and remained so until the Spaniards arrived. Ek?Balam means ?Black Jaguar? in Mayan. According to some Spanish writings from the 16th century, the city was part of a great empire called Talol. The Mayan king Ek?Balam, who was also known as Coch Cal Balam, founded it. Most of the buildings at Ek?Balam were built around 800 A.D. or later. Around that time, the city was ruled by a powerful man named Ukil-Kan-Lek-Tok, whose tomb, called Acropolis, It is located on the site. Ukil-Kan-Lek-Tok's name has been deduced from a glyph in the tomb. The Acropolis has remarkable sculptures and is considered among the tallest buildings in the Yucatan. The view from the top is quite spectacular, and worth the effort, although they can seem quite daunting on the way up and down. In order to view the sculptures there, you must climb about 2/3rds of the way up. The buildings at Ek?Balam suggest that it was rich and powerful at one time. The city lost much of its power around 1000 A.D., however, but remained inhabited long after. The first excavations were carried out by Desire Charnay in 1886, but it was not until 1987 when most of the serious work began. A couple of buildings remain buried, waiting for their secrets to be revealed.