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The Maya Site of Calakmul


click to enlarge    Located on the Yucatan Peninsula, the lowland Maya site of Calakmul lies approximately 35 km from the Guatemalan border and is in the state of Campeche in present-day Mexico.  It is situated on high ground near a large marsh.  The central area of architecture covers some two square kilometers and contains over 1,000 structures.  Residential remains for the city cover some twenty square kilometers, and the remains of its extensive system of canals and reservoirs, which once served a population of over 50,000, surround the sight. 



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Artifacts and Architecture

Burial VIII Urn

The urn shown above was located in Burial VIII.  Among the other artifacts contained in Burial VIII were 6 jadeite masks,  3 stone pendants, a shell-studded garment, and a stingray spine.

jade mask

This mask, made of 168 individual pieces of jade, from Tomb I, Structure III, was excavated by Mario Coyoc Ramirez (1989) and Sophia Pincemin (1989). 


Site Maps

The thumbnails below contain two site maps and one architectural drawing of Calakmul's Grand Plaza.  The site maps have been taken from "Calakmul:   New Data from an Ancient Maya Capital in Campeche, Mexico," an article by William J. Folan that appeared in a 1995 issue of Latin American Antiquity (vol. 6, no. 4).  Farther down, are brief descriptions of Buildings I-IV and XI.   These descriptions have been either paraphrased or excerpted from Ramon Carrasco's on-line essay "Calakmul:  The Archaeology of a Superpower."  For Building XI, the ball court a link has been included to a quick time movie that allows a virtual reality tour of an actual Maya ball court.  Though this movie does not depict the ball court at Calakmul, it does give a general idea as to what such a court looks like.

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Structure I:

Structure I has proportions similar to Structure II.

Structure II:

"Structure II, which occupies the extreme south of the Grand Plaza, is a foundation of monumental proportions with a surface area of more than 100 meters (331 ft) on each side.  The presence of pre-Classic ceramics in unsullied deposits at an open tunnel in this building shows that its fill corresponds to that of a substructure of the late pre-Classic era.  Its sequence of construction preserves at least three substructures and four architectural phases:  the first two, assoicated with ceramics in sealed contents; the second phase corresponds to the early Classic (250-600 A.D.) era."

Structure III:

Carrasco describes Structure III as a "'palace' in the classic Peten style."   Structure III is unique among the main buildings at Calakmul in that it, unlike the others, never underwent any significant modifications during the entirety of occupation at Calakmul.  Carrasco believes that this is because it housed "one of the most ancient lineages of Calakmul."

Structure IV:

This structure represents one of the most complete building architectural sequences at Calakmul--the high pre-Classic through the terminal Classic.  Guarding the entrance of one of its substructures is a carving of a leader "who emerges from a crevice in the monster of the earth."  Carrasco believes that this carving may be a depiction of the legendary Cu-Ix, "the principal protagonist in the alliances among Calakmul, Naranjo, and Caracol in their struggle against the power of Tikal."

Structure XI:

Not visible in the map shown above, Structure XI is a ballcourt situated in public space in Plaza I of the Great Acropolis.  The structure represents architecture at Calakmul in the second half of the late Classic era.  Also of note, is the spacial relationship between Structure XI and Structure XIII as Carrasco believes that this may be a symbolic arrangement linked to the myth of the hero twins in the Popol Vuh and their descent into Xibalba.



Folan, William J.