Comalcalco is unique in the Maya realm in that its structures were built of stucco faced rammed earth and later kiln-fired brick as opposed to limestone block. Some of the bricks contain glyphs and other decoration. The bricks were set with mortar made from ground sea shell as opposed to crushed limestone found at other sites. It is on the northwest frontier of the Maya area, very near to the Gulf of Mexico. Its architectural style has led some scholars to link this site with that of Palenque 100 miles/160 kms to the southeast.
There are three main groups along with residential areas and other singular structures comprising over 400 structures in all. Comalcalco means “place of the house of the griddles” in the Nahuatl language. An emblem glyph has revealed its original Maya name as Joy Chan, “Surrounded/Round/Rolled Sky”, which may be associated with either Palenque or Tortuguero. A number of burial urns and tombs have been found within the site.
Comalcalco is situated within a rich agricultural zone where cocoa trees are prevalent today and which would have been a major commodity of the earlier Maya.
Comalcalco is located about 25 miles/40 kilometers northwest of the state capital, Villahermosa. One travels from Villahermosa west on Highway 180 about 11 miles/17 kilometers, then north on the turnoff to Cunduacan until you reach the town of Comalcalco.
HOURS: 8 A.M-4 P.M
ENTRANCE FEE: U.S.$3.60/55 Pesos
GUIDES: Check at visitor kiosk
SERVICES: Bathrooms, Food and Drink
ON-SITE MUSEUM: Yes
ACCOMMODATIONS: Lodging can be found in Comalcalco town, or in the nearby state capital at Villahermosa which offers better opportunities.
GPS: 18d 18' 43" N, 93d 10' 38" W
HISTORY & EXPLORATION
Comalcalco’s settlement begins in the Pre Classic (350 B.C.-350 A.D.). The first structures were built from rammed earth faced with stucco. Kiln-fired bricks were introduced around 500 A.D. There has been enough glyphic information recovered to be able to identify the dynastic rulers from the 6th through the 8th centuries. In 649 A.D. the city suffered a great defeat at the hands of Balam Ahau, a ruler of Tortuguero. A victory inscription there identifies the defeated ruler of Comalcalco as Ox Balam. The site was abandoned by the end of the Terminal Classic (900-1100 A.D.).
The site has been revealed to have had a sophisticated ceramic industry. Kilns, molds, tools, and numerous figurines have been found at the site. Chemical analysis of the clay has been shown to be identical to the fabulous figurines discovered at the island site of Jaina, indicating that Comalcalco could have been one of the sources for manufacture of these prized figurines.
The site was initially reported on by Desire Charnay in 1880. Frans Blom and Oliver Lafarge undertook a survey in 1925. There followed Gordon Ekholm in 1956/57, and George Andrews in 1966. INAH began excavations and consolidation work beginning in the 1960's which continue to this day.
The main architectural group is formed around the Great Acropolis Plaza. The largest construction is the Great Acropolis which includes the Palace, the Sunken Court, and Temples IV, V and IX.
The Palace is the largest structure and is composed of two long, interconnected galleries of rooms running along a north/south axis. The west side of the Palace faces onto the Plaza. In two rooms on the east side benches or possibly altars have been found. The whole gallery was roofed using corbeled arches.
The Sunken Court contains a number of platforms, some with temples built atop them. One of these contains some stucco molded glyphs. Altars have also been identified here.
Temple IX, Temple of the Nine Lords, is located on the southern portion of the Acropolis, and faces onto the Plaza, A funeral crypt was discovered within whose interior walls exhibit the stucco figures of nine individuals arranged around the room.
Abutting the extreme southern end of the Acropolis are Temples IV and V. A tomb was located at the base of each of them. These at one time were richly faced with stucco decoration. Temple IV is built atop a platform with a small stairway leading to a structure containing two chambers and is 32 feet/10 meters in height. Temple V is mostly in a degraded state.
On the north side of the Great Acropolis Plaza are two structures. Temple VI is a tiered platform with a central stairway that leads to a two chambered structure built on top, and is 34 feet/10.5 meters in height. At the base of the platform is a stucco mask of Kin’ich Ahau, the Sun god. Next to Temple VI is Temple VII, also known as the Temple of the Seated Figures. It is similar in design to Temple VI. Located on the tiered platform are seated figures modeled of stucco. Facing the west side of the Plaza is a group of structures on which information is lacking.
Located a little north of the Great Acropolis is another group of structures known as the North Group. This group is formed around a rectangular plaza. Three altar platforms are situated in the center of the plaza.
Temple I is located on the west end of this plaza, and at 82 feet/25 meters in height is the tallest structure in the group. It is a large, multi-tiered pyramid crowned with a temple. The temple is reached by a broad stairway that faces the plaza. This stairway is divided into two sections with the final 10 steps to the temple being much narrower. The temple has three entrances with an altar on the back wall.
On the north side of the plaza is Temple II which is part of an elongated platform the remainder of which is unexcavated. The temple atop the platform is reached by a central stairway, and has three entrances divided by pillars. A small altar is located against the rear wall.
Between Temples II and III a funerary urn was discovered belonging to a High Priest whose name has been deciphered as Ah Pakal Tan. Numerous items relating to priestly functions were found with him.
The south side of the North Group consists of three structures. They are in an unrestored condition.
The last group is known as the East Acropolis and its three mounds are so far unexcavated. There are numerous other mounds still waiting to be excavated within the core site.
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temple III alfonso bouchot
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temple I north group Misael 1989
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north plaza Miguel marn
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