Structures IV and V steve mellard
west plaza/plaza C steve mellard
structure II detail steve mellard
BECAN- Campeche (Yucatan), Mexico
Becan is an important Maya archaeological zone located in the Rio Bec area of the Yucatan Peninsula. The name is modern, and means “path of a ravine/ditch made by running water”, or “serpent way” in Yukatek Maya. The original name is unknown. It is surrounded by both a moat and a wall/embankment with seven original entrances across the moat that permitted entry into the site. The enclosed site encompasses about 61 acres/25 hectares, with a much larger outlying settlement pattern. It is set on a north/south axis, about 10 degrees east of North.
The site has one of the largest pyramids in the Rio Bec area, part of a group of sites exhibiting a similar architectural style of construction. These sites include Chicanna, Xpuhil, Hormiguero, Rio Bec and Balam Ku, among others. This style of construction is noted for its high twin towers, steep, non-functioning stairways, and faux temples that crown the tops of the towers. The site was first settled around 550 BCE during the Middle Preclassic (700-300 BCE).
Becan is located midway between Escarcega and Chetumal on Highway 186, about 5 miles/8km west from the town of Xpujil, also spelled Xpuhil. Campeche is about 186.5 miles/300 km distant.
HOURS: 9 A.M.-5 P.M.
ENTRANCE FEE: $4.50/75 Pesos
GUIDES: Inquire at visitor kiosk
ON-SITE MUSEUM: No
ACCOMODATIONS: Food and lodging can be found in the nearby town of Xpujil, or in Chetumal
HISTORY AND EXPLORATION
Becan has an early history. The first settlement began in the Middle Preclassic (700-300 BCE). Monumental architecture appeared by the Late Preclassic (300 BCE-250 CE) as the site grew in economic and political importance. Many trade goods from the important central Mexican site of Teotihuacan have been found here. Becan appears to have been attacked by an unknown group, possibly from the Peten area, between 440-460 CE, and experienced a population decline.
Construction in the Rio Bec style and population growth began during the Late Classic (600-900 CE) with the site becoming a regional capital. Changing political dynamics forced a decline in the importance of the site during the latter part of the Late Classic, and it was finally abandoned around 1150 CE.
To date there have been no published decipherments of the legible monuments, stelae or other texts discovered to identify its rulers or social/political relationships with other sites. However, its close proximity to the other Rio Bec sites would certainly seem to imply links between them. Central American green obsidian has been found in abundance at Becan which could indicate early trade and/or political ties to Tikal. The K’aan Dynasty located at Dzibanche, and later at Calakmul just 15 miles/24 km to the southwest, would certainly have had an impact on Becan’s history.
Becan was first mentioned by Maurice Perigny in 1909, and next by Raymond Merwin in 1915. In-depth reports of the site were done by Karl Rupert and John Denison in 1934 for the Carnegie Institution. There followed Wyllys Andrews IV, David Webster, Jack Eaton, Joseph Ball, David Potter, and Prentice Thomas between 1969-73. Further investigations were carried out between 1983-85 by Roman Pina Chan. Ricardo Bueno Cano conducted research at the site 1992-94. Excavations and investigations were carried out by Luz Evelia Campana (1999-2001), and more recently by Vicente Suarez Aguilar.
The site is entered from the southeast through one of the original entrances that crosses over the dry moat and leads into the East Plaza/Plaza A. The moat itself encircles the site and is on average 52 feet/16 meters in width, and at least 8 feet 2.5 meters deep. An earthen embankment fortification follows the course of the moat, and has a maximum height of about 8 feet/2.5 meters. The structures exhibit finely-executed stone mosaic masks, and other decorative, geometric designs. There are three main plaza groups; Groups A-C with secondary architectural complexes that surround the core area.
The East Plaza/Plaza A is the first area seen when entering the site. The plaza measures about 123 feet/37.5 meters by 181 feet/55 meters and is ringed by structures I-IV. The structures and plaza are set on a huge, raised platform.
Structure I is located on the south side of the plaza and consists of a large platform base measuring about 213 feet/65 meters in length. There are twin towers that are set on either end of the platform base and rise over 45 feet/15 meters in height. At one time the temples atop the towers had openings on all four sides. Plans by archaeologists show that the temples were once crowned with a roof comb. Between the towers is a mass of stone that faces onto the plaza. The rear of the structure displays two levels that extend down to a ground level platform, and contains on the lower level seven sub-divided rooms, and on the upper level five sub-divided rooms. Several of the chambers have benches which would denote an elite, residential use. The platform level rooms display a façade of stone mosaic masks. In front of the platform level is a broad terrace facing onto a courtyard. The courtyard contains a large, square altar platform, Structure 1B. It is interesting to note that all the chambers face onto the south side of the structure and have no communication to Plaza A. Very unusual.
Structure II is set on a very low platform base about 140 feet/43 meters in length, and is situated on the west side of the plaza. A small, plaza-facing staircase leads up to a broad terrace. There are several rooms that face onto the terrace, some of which contain two chambers. The rear chambers of some of the rooms have benches which would imply an elite, residential function. The façade of this structure exhibits decorative checkerboard panels in both high and low relief. Behind the line of rooms is a central, pyramidal structure composed of a high base and houses a two-chamber temple at its summit. The pyramid reaches a height of around 45 foot/15 meters with stairways on the west and east sides of the structure. Two empty, corbel vaulted tombs were discovered within the structure.
Structure III is found on the east side of the plaza. It is an elongated structure with a length of about 163 feet/50 meters, and houses numerous chambers. The structure is the result of several construction phases comprising two joined structures on a shared platform. A pyramidal structure is set on the north side of the platform.The plaza level features several rooms that flank both sides of a central stairway. The broad, central stairway leads to an upper level that has multiple chambers, some with benches. A narrow stairway is seen between the two constructions. In front of this structure is a circular platform measuring about 19.5 feet/6 meters in diameter, and 3.26 feet/1 meter in height. It has been dated to the Post Classic c.1200 CE. The south structure displays several rooms on multiple levels.
Structure IV is on the north side of the plaza. A broad, central stairway leads to a patio on the fourth level. Several rooms, some with multiple chambers, surround the patio on three sides with most containing benches. The patio-facing walls of the chambers display decorative, geometric designs. The façade of the structure still shows the remains of stone mosaic masks upon the twin towers, which once displayed non-functional stairways on its east and west façades. Interior stairways lead to passageways, with some extending up to the towers (bring a good flashlight).
The northside of Structure IV faces onto a large courtyard shared with Structure V. A central, divided stairway leads up to the second level that houses several rooms. The entire façade of this level features stone mosaic masks. Ground level chambers flank the central stairway and display decorative, geometric designs on the façade. On the west side of the courtyard is Structure V.
Structure V is composed of two adjoined, multi-level structures. Each contains several rooms with multiple chambers that face onto the courtyard. Some of the chambers have wide benches with support legs decorated with geometric motifs. The façade of the structures displays some nice stone mosaic masks, and checkerboard panels. The main structure is set on a low, long terrace platform accessed via a five-step stairway. A small, circular altar is located in the plaza in front of the stairway.
A mound is located at the north end of the courtyard. A long passageway of nearly 217 feet/66 meters connects the courtyard to the Central Plaza/Plaza B. A section of the passageway is still vaulted.
The Central Plaza/Plaza B measures about 283 feet/86 meters x 358 feet/104 meters. Fronting the east side of the plaza is a monumental structure, Structure VIII, crowned by twin towers. A broad, staggered, central stairway leads up four tiers to an upper terrace. A plain stela, Stela 11, is in the center of the terrace. At the back of the terrace six round columns divide a series of nine chambers, possibly associated with the nine levels of the Underworld. Some of the chambers have wide benches that would indicate an elite residential use of the structure. The façade of the structure once incorporated a huge, stone mosaic mask. At either end of the terrace non-functioning stairways lead up to the twin tower temples. Plans by archaeologists show that the temples were once crowned with a roof comb. From the top of this structure, the tallest structures at Xpuhil can be observed.
Structure IX is situated on the north side of the Central Plaza. It is a multi-tiered pyramid, and at 96 feet/32 meters is the highest structure at Becan. A steep, broad stairway leads up five levels to the summit containing a multi-chamber temple, and this structure was most likely the main religious building at Becan. The structure exhibits three construction phases beginning in the Late Preclassic. A series of chambers is observed on the second and third levels, while a rich offering was found inside the pyramid’s temple. A stone mosaic mask is located on the side of the stairway on one of the narrow landings. The remains of Stela 3 are found at the base of the pyramid in the center of a low, rectangular platform. There are several, readable glyphs at the bottom of the stela.
Structure X is set on the west side of the plaza. This is a huge palace complex with chambers distributed on multiple levels. A central, pyramidal structure rises to a height of 45.5 feet/14 meters. A broad series of steps leads up to a first level terrace where a central, secondary stairway begins. At the base of the second stairway an entryway to a sub-terranean chamber has been excavated. The stairway continues upward to a summit terrace that houses a multi-chamber temple. The summit temple still displays a façade decorated with stone mosaic masks exhibiting some original red painted stucco, and the remains of a roof comb. The three temple rooms have their own entryway and consist of two chambers each. The rear chamber of the central entryway has been consolidated and is supported by wood beams. The extended palace complex contains nearly 70 rooms distributed around twin courtyards located on the north and south sides of the pyramid.
A large polychrome mask is located within one of the rooms in the south courtyard of the palace complex. It features a presumed ruler of the site with his head resting on a small mask. The headdress incorporates twin masks with the jaws of the Earth Monster flanking his side. Above the figure is a cavity surrounded by four lobes, which indicates a portal to the underworld, and is recognized as an “ol” symbol. This impressive mask still exhibits red and blue painted stucco, and is behind a protective glass enclosure.
A mound-covered structure is seen on the south side of the plaza. Directly behind Structure X is the West Plaza/Plaza C.
The east side of the West Plaza/Plaza C is taken up by the rear of the Structure X complex. Abutting this structure is the main ball court, Structure XI. The paired structures form the typical design with open end zones, with the playing field measureing 39 feet/12 meters in length and 29 feet/9 meters in width. The ball court is set on a North/South axis around 10 degrees east of North.
The remainder of the West Plaza/Plaza C structures have been partially excavated with a large complex, Structure XIII, on the west side. There are numerous other minor platforms and structures located within and without the walled site.
Approximately 1,378 feet/420 meters to the east of the entrance is a small, mound-covered, architectural complex named Yol. Stelae 7-9 were recovered here attesting to its importance. A short distance from the entrance to the southeast is a smaller complex named Yotoch. To the north are two larger complexes: Uchb’en, about 1,148 feet/350 meters to the northeast housing four mounds around a courtyard containing Stela 6; and the May Complex, around 689 feet/210 meters to the northwest where Stela 5 is located, and similar in design layout to Uchb’en.
Becan is a great site to visit, especially when grouped together with Xpuhil, Chicanna, and Hormiguero. The Rio Bec architectural style is a stunning example of Maya planning and design.
updated november 2023
Plaza A/east plaza drone shot inah
vaulted passageway steve mellard
structure X palace complex south courtyard steve mellard
structure II juan costal perez
structure VIII philippN
structure X mask chamber steve mellard
site overview google earth
becan lidded ceramic inah
structure I south side hjpd
str IV upper courtyard detail ela ginalska
becan stela 3 steve mellard
structure IX philippN
structure X ela ginalska
welcome to the mayan ruins website .
becan ceramic inah
structure IX mask ela ginalska
structure 1 stone mosaic mask ele ginalska
structure X bernard dupont
becan ceramic inah
structure I south side panza-rayada
structure I Plaza A side hjpd
becan ceramic inah
structure X stucco figure panza_rayda
becan site map inah
structure 1b platform steve mellard
ball court Structure XI steve mellard
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structure IX steve mellard
site map inah
structure IV upper patio bernard dupont
structure IV hjpd
west plaza/plaza C steve mellard
structure III and circular altar ela ginalska
structure VIII dge