structure II                                                 stephan merk

CALAKMUL Campeche (Yucatan), Mexico 

DESCRIPTION
Calakmul, capital of the Snake (Kan) Kingdom, is the largest of the Rio Bec architectural style sites and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has the highest pyramid in the Maya world, and contains the greatest number of stelae (commemorative carved stone slab markers) found at any site. Discovered under a late period temple are some of the most stunning murals ever seen in the Maya world. There are at least eight Sacbe (white stone roads) that have been identified in the archeological zone.

  Located deep in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve about 22 miles/35 kms from the Guatemala border, Calakmul was built atop a small natural plateau surrounded by a savannah.  It was one of the largest and most powerful city-states in the Maya world with an estimated population of over 50,000, and political control of over a million inhabitants. 

 The site covers about 7 sq. miles/112 sq. kms and contains over 6,000 structures, though the core area is much smaller. It is located off the Chetumal-Campeche Highway 186, outside the town of Conhuas. From there it is a drive in of about 37 miles/60kms.

HOURS: 8 A.M-5 P.M.
ENTRANCE FEE: U.S. 3.50/48 Pesos
GUIDES: Inquire at visitor kiosk
SERVICES: Bathrooms and pamphlet sales at visitor kiosk
ON-SITE MUSEUM: No
ACCOMMODATIONS: Basic food and lodging at the town of Xupijl, or in either of the state capitals Campeche and Chetumal
GPS: 18d 06' 23" N, 89d 49' 01" W
MISC:

HISTORY AND EXPLORATION

Calakmul has a very well defined history. More than 20 kings have been identified covering a time span of over 400 years. Numerous stelae here and at other sites, as well as other original sources such as hieroglyphic stairways and ceramics, have recorded a time line of events such as royal births, accessions, deaths, marriages, alliances, conquests and defeats. 

Calakmul, with its allies, was in constant conflict with the equally powerful site of Tikal and its allies. Its influence, or vengeance, was felt as far away as Copan in Honduras, then an ally of Tikal.  Many parallels could be drawn regarding the history of Europe, and the contemporary East/West cold war. It was a life or death struggle, with death being the operative word here.

 Calakmul was first settled in the Middle Pre Classic (700-350 B.C.), and by the Late Pre Classic (350 B.C.-200 A.D) was already an important city. It reached its height during the Late Classic (600-900 A.D) before suffering defeat at the hands of a resurgent Tikal and losing its importance as a major power. It continued with a diminished population and status into the Post Classic (1000-1450 A.D.). It is closely associated with the site of Dzibanche which some researchers believe was the first capital of the Snake Kingdom. 

The site of Calakmul was only brought to the attention of scholars by botanist Cyrus Lundell in 1931, and reported on by Sylvanus Morley in 1932.  Excavation and consolidation of structures continues.


STRUCTURES
By far the most impressive structure at Calakmul is its massive pyramid/temple known as Structure II. This structure was built-over and enlarged a number of times over the course of several centuries to reach its final height of around 150 feet/50 meters, the highest and largest structure in the Maya world. Its base measures over 400 feet/130 meters in circumference. 

 Structure II contains several sub-structures; some recently excavated and open to the public. A number of tombs have been found within the pyramid, some containing rich funerary offerings including jade masks. An immense stairway leads to the top in a series of tiers. In front of the pyramid are a number of Stelae dating from the early eighth century. 

Structure II lies on the south side of the Central, or Great Plaza. Located on the west is Structure VI; Structure VII on the north; and Structure IV on the east. Structures IV and VI are thought to have had an astronomical function, marking the equinox and solstices, and form a paring that is termed an “E Group”. 

Structure VII is a temple/pyramid complex originally constructed in the Peten style that rises to a height of 69 feet/23 meters. It has a broad stairway leading to a three chambered temple at the top. Here was found an eighth century tomb of one of Calakmul’s kings containing a fabulous jade mask. Other jade, shell ornaments and ceramic objects were discovered as well. 

North of the Great Plaza is a complex known as the Chiik Nahb Acropolis, “Place of the Water Lilly”. This complex is famous for its startling murals recently discovered within one of its structures. This temple consisted of 5 sub-structures reflecting a building period covering hundreds of years. During excavations brilliant murals were discovered on the stucco outer walls of sub-structure 4. These murals are unique in the Maya world as they depict not royalty or warfare, but nobles and commoners engaged in social rituals. There are a number of defaced Stelae located on one of the broad stairways. 

To the south of the Great Plaza is a single building, Structure I. At its base are three altars representing the Three Hearth Stones often associated with the constellation Orion, and the birthplace of the gods. A stairway, once flanked by large stucco masks, leads to a small temple at the top.

To the west of the Great Plaza is the West Group, or Great Acropolis. This is a huge complex with multiple structures, including a ball court, temples, and residential areas. On a natural limestone outcrop within the zone, a fine carving of seven kneeling prisoners was discovered. It has since been reburied to preserve it. 

Structure XV, located in the Great Plaza contains three tombs of high ranking personages with a fine array of funerary goods. Many of the other structures associated with this group remain to be excavated and studied.
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stela 51                          thelmadatter

​                                                                     stephan merk

mural detail chiik nahb sub structure4 

ballcourt                                                         pete fordham

CALAKMUL

structure 13 w/stela 88                                    roberto llebig

structure II                                                          ant mela

structure II                                                                philipN.

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