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DZIBANCHE - Quintana Roo (Yucatan), Mexico

Dzibanche is a large archaeological zone spread out over 12 sq. miles/20 sq. kms, and located north of the ruins of Kohunlich. The core area is much smaller and easily visited. It is thought that this was an administrative site for a large area extending over to the Caribbean coast. The name means “writing on wood” in the Yucatec Maya language. It is named for a wooden support lintel carved with glyphs found in one of the temples. The site dates from the Late Pre Classic (350 B.C.-200 A.D.) through the Late Post Classic (1100-1450 A.D.).

 It has recently been suggested that Dzibanche was the first capital of the Kan Kingdom which later relocated to the site of Calakmul. There are four main groups associated with the site, three of which are open to the public. 

This site is rarely visited and you will probably have the place to yourself. The sub-tropical rain forest is quite dense here. Monkeys pass overhead and break small branches to drop down on you. You’re in their territory after all. But they are otherwise harmless. Toucans and other birds fill the air with sound and silently glide among the trees. 

The visitor kiosk is located at the intersection before the site on the right hand side. It is not clearly marked, so watch for it.

If you visit here in March, please drive slowly on the road to the site. The area is filled with thousands of iridescent blue butterflies migrating across the fields and road. Step out of your car and be surrounded. It’s quite an experience. 

Dzibanche is located off Highway 186 about 52 miles west of Chetumal. Turn north at kilometer 58 towards the town of Morocoy. It’s in about 16 miles/25 kms from the turnoff. 

HOURS: 8 A.M-3 P.M
ENTRANCE FEE: U.S. 3.50/65 Pesos. Your admission ticket from Kohunlich might allow entrance. There is also an additional charge for video cameras.
GUIDES: Yes, inquire at visitor kiosk for current rates
SERVICES: Bathrooms
ACCOMMODATIONS: Lodging can be found in Chetumal.
GPS: 18d 38' 19" N, 88d 45' 35" W

Ceramic evidence dates the beginning of settlement of the site to the Middle Pre Classic (300 B.C.-200 A.D.). The erection of monumental building structures commenced in the Early Classic (200-600 A.D.) evincing a strong  Peten influence. A carved lintel beam with glyphs has been dated to 554 A.D. It has since been removed for preservation. There is also a stairway that contains a glyph block associated with the Kan Dynasty (Calakmul)  and dates to 464 A.D. It is the discovery of this glyph block that has led some researchers to believe that this was the early capital of the Kan Dynasty. 

The area was first reported on by Thomas Gann in the 1927. In the late 1980’s archaeologists associated with INAH began excavation and consolidation of the structures. Work has been ongoing. 

The Gann Plaza is named after the well known archaeologist who first reported on the site. On the east side is a huge platform with two temples separated by a raised interior plaza named the Xibalba Plaza. The temple facing Gann Plaza is called the Temple of the Cormorant. A tomb was found within one of three vaulted chambers that are part of this temple. One of the funerary offerings is a ceramic vase decorated in the style of the bird that gives the temple its name. Also found was a jadeite mask with obsidian and shell inlay. The Temple of the Captives is located on the west side of the Plaza. Stone carvings found here of bound captives gives this temple its name. The Plaza is bounded on the north and south by raised platforms.

On the opposite side of the Xibalba Plaza from the Temple of the Cormorants is the Temple of the Owl. This structure is reminiscent of Rio Bec style architecture. Here a tomb of a high-ranking female was located via an interior stairway. A rich array of funerary objects were found in this tomb including a rare alabaster statute of a monkey, and a carved shell depicting an individual with jade and pyrite inlay. Jade jewelry was also found along with a number of ceramics including one that has given the temple its name. A very rich find attesting to the wealth and political importance of the site. The temple contains nine doors in a possible reference to the nine levels of the Underworld. 

Across from the Temple of the Owls is another structure that is known as the Small Acropolis and is undergoing excavation and consolidation. Surrounding this area is a large number of platforms that have been identified as a residential in nature.

The last structure of note here is the Temple of the Lintels, set slightly apart from the rest of structures. Here is where a lintel support beam was found with glyphs that date it to 553 A.D., which was in the Early Classic Period (200-600 A.D). 

There are at least two other large structures associated with this site. One is visible in a field on the way to the main site. It is not open to the public at this time. The other is a huge structure located a short distance away and is named Kinichna. It is located back near the visitor kiosk down a side road. This is a monumental platform containing an acropolis on three levels. It is an impressive Early Classic structure set in a forested area around a small plaza fronted by low platforms. Well worth the short drive.​

detail temple of the lintel                                          by hjpd.


temple of the captives 1995                                   by hjpd

temple of the captives  2016                        steve mellard

temple of the lintel

structure XVI gann plaza                              by hjpd

mural                                                         steve mellard

site map

temple of the cormorants                    steve mellard

north palace xibalba plaza                        steve mellard

temple of the owl                                        by hjpd