The name Sayil means "place of the leaf-cutting ants," and is doubtless modern in origin. The city covers an area of about 1 1/4 square miles and sits on the floor of a level valley surrounded by steep hills. It is about twelve miles from Uxmal and only four miles west of Labna. Radiocarbon analysis ofwood from a lintel in the upper range of the Casa Grande has yielded a date of 730 A.D., plus or minus 80 years.
The structures at Sayil are almost all badly fallen. The Palace is one of the best preserved. This three story building was constructed in several phases, beginning with the first floor range to the left of the central stairway. The second and third ranges were built with little, if any, lapse of time between them.
Like other multi-level Maya buildings, this is not a three story structure in the traditional sense. Rooms were not superimposed one above the other, but rather each succeeding range was set back from the one below on successive terraces. The facade is actually applied as a decorative veneer to the huge artificial mound of dirt and rubble that supports it. Notice how the paired structural columns in the doorways of the second level lighten what would otherwise be an awkward and heavy facade.