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Balamku (Divine Jaguar/Temple of the Jaguar) is a small Early Classic (200-600 A.D.) site named after stucco images of a jaguar discovered there. These images are part of a rare, well preserved stucco frieze which has generated intense interest among both researchers and visitors.
There are four main monumental groups. This site is located in the general Rio Bec Archaeological Zone in the southern Yucatan Peninsula, the most famous of which is the grand site of Calakmul.
The site is located along the Chetumal-Escarcega road, Highway 186, at KM93. From Chetumal it is past the turnoff to Calakmul at the small settlement of Conhuas, on the north side of the road.
HOURS: 8 A.M.-5 P.M.
ENTRANCE FEE: U.S.$2.50/40Pesos
GUIDES: Inquire at visitor kiosk or at the town of Xpuhil
SERVICES: Restrooms and a visitor kiosk
ON-SITE MUSEUM: small on-site museum
ACCOMMODATIONS: Food and lodging can be found in Xpuhil and Chetumal
GPS: 18d 33' 42" N, 89d 57' 06"
HISTORY AND EXPLORATION
Balamku has a settlement history that dates back to the Late Pre-Classic (300 B.C.-200 A.D.). The stelae that have been uncovered here are too deteriorated to provide any information on the sites dynastic history. The architecture of the site shows influence from both the Peten, in northern Guatemala, and of the Rio Bec style.
Most of the monumental construction took place between the Late Pre-Classic and the Early Classic (200-600 A.D.). There are examples of later construction activity in the Late Classic (600-900 A.D.). The site most likely experienced the same decline as the other sites of the Rio Bec area, and was abandoned during the Post Classic (900-1200 A.D.).
The site was first investigated in 1990 by archaeologist Florentino Garcia Cruz following reports of looting in the area. In 1995 French archaeologists Dominique Michelet and Pierre Becquelin joined INAH archaeologist Ramon Carrasco in excavations and consolidations.
The Central Group is composed of three plazas that comprise about 30 structures. Plaza A forms the south side of the group and contains the Ball Court and other unexcavated mounds. To the north of this group is Plaza B.
In Structure 1 of Plaza B is where the stunning discovery was made of an enormous frieze that decorates one of its sides. The frieze had been partially uncovered by a looters trench. The well preserved frieze depicts an elaborate scene of gods, jaguars, amphibians, reptiles, and rulers. This iconography has led some researchers to identify it with similar themes found at Palenque, and which are related to certain dynastic rituals. It has mostly retained its vivid colors. This is not the first time a looters trench has led to a major discovery. The fabulous wall mural at San Bartolo was also recently discovered by archaeologists in this manner.
The structure itself is a multi-tiered pyramid with a wide central stairway that leads to its summit. It is located in the north-west section of the Plaza. The frieze is accessed off the stairway at about the half way point and is part of an earlier sub-structure.
The South Group contains four plazas and is dominated by a nicely restored pyramidal structure that forms the edges of both Plazas A and B. The summit of the pyramid is crowned with a multi-roomed temple. There are other smaller platforms and structures here, some restored, others just mounds.
The North group awaits excavation by archaeologists. It contains six plazas and numerous mounds.
frieze detail steve mellard
structure 1 central group containing frieze steve mellard
south entry to central group steve mellard
south group nioux
main pyramid-south group steve mellard
frieze detail by hjpd