On Stephens' and Catherwood's first visit to Uxmal this building stood whole, if crumbling. The next year, 1841, they returned to find that the central portion had caved in. Undoubtedly the decay of the wooden lintels over the doorways had contributed to its collapse. The building has since been restored by the Mexican government, and concrete lintels have been used to replace the wooden ones.
The structure takes its name from the row of turtles decorating the cornice, each carved with different patterns on its shell. Stephens praised the "justness and beauty of its proportions, and its chasteness and simplicity," and his views have been echoed by scholars and travelers ever since.
Through the central doorway one can see the Nunnery complex about 180 yards to the north. To the right is the mass of the Temple of the Magician.