temple of the masks south side steve mellard
temple of the masks ela ginalska
northwest complex hjpd
temple of the masks detail victorgrigas
pixa'an group inah
view to the stands steve mellard
site map inah
acropolis upper patio north set steve mellard
acropolis east side excavation gautier poupeau
site overview google earth
27 steps complex hjpd
share your photos with us
27 steps group inah
ya'axna plaza group structure E2 inah
acropolis stairway ela ginalska
temple of the masks steve mellard
lidded ceramic with glyphs inah
censer steve mellard
northwest complex plaza acropolis steve mellard
Kohunlich is a Maya archaeological zone located in the southwest of Quintana Roo state. The site name derives from the English “Cohoon Ridge”, which refers to a type of Corozo palm tree found in the area. Its original name has yet to be determined, but an Early Classic (250-400 CE) burial offering contains the inscription Yax-Jul (?) - Chan-na, "Pierced Blue Sky", which may indicate a place name for Kohunlich.
This is a large site encompassing over twenty acres spread out over relatively flat terrain. There are over two hundred mounds located throughout the archaeological zone. Most of these have yet to be excavated. Numerous burials consisting of grave goods associated with high status individuals have been excavated here. Tree shaded trails wind through the sub-tropical rainforest making it enjoyable to explore. While the main attractions are the large Sun God masks, the site has numerous other structural groups to explore. Architectural styles include Peten and Rio Bec. A number of beautiful, intricately modelled censers have been recovered from the site, and are now housed in various museums.
Within the general area a number of other sites are to be found including the important site of Dzibanche, which is now thought to have been the first location of the great Kaan/Snake Kingdom, and which later relocated to Calakmul.
The site dates from the Late Pre-Classic (300B.C.-250 A.D) through its peak in the Late Classic (600-900 A.D), and was abandoned around 1100 A.D. Plan to spend a half day here. It is located about forty 45miles/72 kms west of Chetumal off Highway 186, south of the small town of Francisco Villa.
HOURS: 8 A.M-5 P.M.
ENTRANCE FEE: U.S. $4.25/80 Pesos. Video camera an extra fee.
GUIDES: Inquire at visitor kiosk. Guides can be obtained in Chetumal.
SERVICES: Bathrooms, bring your own water and snacks.
ON-SITE MUSEUM: No, but a community museum is located in nearby Morocoy.
ACCOMODATIONS: Lodging can be found at Chetumal, the state capital.
GPS: 18d 25’ 09” N, 88d 47’ 28” W
MISC: your admission ticket may get you into Dzibanche and Kinichna
HISTORY AND EXPLORATION
The earliest settlement activity dates to the Middle Pre-Classic (700 B.C.-300 A.D.) attested to by recovered pottery shards, and low-rise platforms. The Late Pre-Classic (300 B.C-250 A.D.) saw the rise of monumental architecture exhibiting a strong Peten influence. These structures are found in Plaza Ya’axna/First House, which is currently closed to the public. During the Early Classic (250-600 A.D) the construction of monumental structures continued and reached its height in the Late Classic (600-850 A.D.). The site was abandoned in the Terminal Classic (850-1150 A.D.) around 1100 A.D. Excavations reveal early ties to the Peten region in Guatemala, and later with the Rio Bec region farther to the west.
There have been no readable, carved stelae or glyphic inscriptions recovered to identify its rulers or political associations. The architectural influences of both the Peten and Rio Bec areas would seem to indicate a strong trade and/or political relationship.
The site was first reported by Raymond Merwin in 1912. The next explorations did not take place until 1968 by Victor Segovia Pinto of INAH when excavation and consolidation of the site commenced. The 1970’s saw Peter Schmidt, Diana Zargoza and others join the ongoing investigations. George Andrews documented the site in 1981 followed by Adriana Velasquez and Enrique Nalda of INAH in 1993-94. Investigations and restorations continue under the direction of INAH.
The civic/ceremonial core area of Kohunlich is set around a series of plazas, with other individual structural groups and residential areas spread throughout the park. The site is oriented about 12 degrees east of north, and features a complex drainage system that diverted rainwater into a nearby reservoir/aguada. The most notable structure is the Temple of the Masks.
The Temple of the Masks is a solitary, pyramidal structure set on a small rise on the west side of the core area overlooking the main plaza, Plaza of the Stelae. This very impressive Early Classic structure built in the Peten style of Guatemala stands about 32 feet/10 meters in height. A temple consisting of five chambers is set upon a four-tiered pyramid base, and features distinctive rounded corners typical of Peten architecture. There is a west facing central stairway that is flanked by huge, beautiful stucco masks of the Sun God Kin’ich Ahau, each over 6 feet/2 meters tall. Five of the original eight masks survive. These very rare portraits were carefully preserved when later construction commenced during the Late Classic. Large masks of the Sun god appear at a few other sites such as on the main pyramid at Acanceh 170 miles/272 kms to the north, at Cerros in Belize 29 miles/47 km to the east, and in Lamanai, Belize 46 miles/74 km to the southeast.
The site is entered from the northwest. The first group of structures seen is called the Northwest Complex built around a small plaza, a mainly residential area for higher ranking nobles. Structure B-5 is on the west side at plaza level. It incorporates several, small residential groups, and occupies an area of approximately 228 feet/70m on a north-south axis, and 98 feet/30m on an east-west axis. During excavations ceramic, lithic, shell, small anthropomorphic figurines, whistles and human bones were found. Stucco floors were also found in excellent condition, some still with red pigment.
Structure B-6, also known as the Palace, is located on the north side of the plaza. This group is set on a raised platform accessed by a central stairway that leads to a terrace. Numerous, corbel-vaulted chambers are connected by passageways. The west side, and a segment of the south side of the plaza, is taken up by the Acropolis.
The Acropolis is built atop a huge platform, and is the largest structure at the site. It is mostly square in shape measuring about 147 feet/45m x 196 feet/60m with a westward extension into the Northwest Complex Plaza. It is accessed by a broad, west facing stairway that leads up from the Northwest Complex Plaza into a large interior courtyard surrounded by individual sets of structures. Similar to the Northwest Complex there are numerous structures containing multiple chambers, many of them still exhibiting the remains of corbeled vaulted roofs. Several chambers have raised platforms/sleeping areas, some still retaining their original stucco surface.
The south side of the Acropolis features a three-chambered annex structure at plaza level accessed by its own stairway. These chambers have mostly retained their corbel vaulted roofs, and one chamber displays ancient Maya graffiti. The final construction phase of the Acropolis is from the Late Classic, and completed in the Rio Bec style featuring towers exhibiting steep, faux stairways. Excavations at the lower plaza level on the east side of the Acropolis platform has revealed an early sub-structure and entryway.
Two groups are located east of the Acropolis. The Plaza Hundida is a low, multi-tiered platform base that houses two ruined structures. The la Aguada Group is further to the northeast, and is not open to the public. It contains several unexcavated mounds. The south side of the Acropolis faces onto the main plaza, Plaza of the Stelae.
The Plaza of the Stelae measures about 260 feet/80 meters square. It is named for the three, plain stelae that are located upon the broad stairway of the Palace of the Stelae, on the east side of the plaza. This structure has a raised platform with a length of about 159 feet/49m facing onto the plaza. A pyramidal structure rises off the central portion of the platform base. While excavated, it is not fully restored except for three single-chambered constructions on the platform level, each accessed through a single entryway. Two of the chamber constructions still retain corbeled vaulted roofs. A low, square altar/dance platform is situated in the center of the plaza.
The west side of the plaza is taken up by the Temple of the King. This is an impressive, multi-tiered, pyramidal construction that features a ruined, masonry construction at the summit housing six chambers. It has a central, plaza facing stairway that leads up to two staggered terraces. However, the summit temple itself appears to have been accessed from the west side of the structure. A narrow stairway is also located on the south side of the structure. Behind this structure is a monument covered by a palm palapa. The south side of the plaza features a structure known as The Stands.
The Stands, Structure D-4, is a range type, linear structure on the south side of the plaza set upon a low four-tiered platform base with a height of about 6.5 feet/3 meters. There is a wide, central stairway that leads to a terrace that may have held structures of a perishable nature.
The south side of The Stands forms the north side of Plaza Merwin. This side of the platform base has a central stairway that extends out into the plaza. A structure having a single chamber faces south onto the plaza.
Plaza Merwin is named after the explorer who first reported on the site. Two altar/platforms are located in the center of the plaza. It may have been of a civic/ceremonial nature due to the Ball Court anchoring the east side of the Plaza.
The Ball Court is of typical design with open end zones on the extreme east end of the plaza. The supporting upper platforms may have at one time supported masonry structures or those of a perishable material. Its orientation is a bit unusual as it is on a NW/SE axis about 104 degrees east of north.
The west side of the plaza is anchored by a linear structure known as the Building of the Twin Columns. A short flight of steps on both the east and west sides lead between pairs of columns into an interior chamber. Behind this structure to the west is a group known as The Roads.
The Roads consists of three parallel east/west “avenues” with low platforms that may have once housed residential structures of a perishable nature. The platforms are currently unexcavated mounds, though a few exhibit steps.
The south side of Merwin Plaza is taken up by another linear structure known as The House of the Eleven Doors, Structure D-2. This structure is set on a low platform with the long, interior chamber accessed between a series of pillars. Low stairways are located on the north side of the structure facing onto the plaza. It features elements of modified Rio Bec architecture. Between this structure and the Ball Court is a small, partially restored, square structure of about 8 feet/2.5 m in height.
The south side of The Building of Eleven Doors looks towards two residential groups: the Pixa’an Group, and the 27 Steps Group. Several burials of high-ranking individuals have been uncovered from within the two groups.
The Pix’an Group is to the southeast of Merwin Plaza. It is a set upon a natural elevation and extends over numerous levels. The constructions show signs of Rio Bec influence. It is a warren of eleven, multi-chambered structures, with courtyards and patios, and is quite pleasant to stroll through. Structure E-1 is a palace-type structure with a “C-shaped” plan, with its main facade facing south. All of its chambers were covered by vaults, and possibly a roof comb was raised above the central wall. It has internal benches and walls with niches, and is similar to a structure located within the Acropolis. Remains recovered from the collapse of the south façade reveal that it once had a frieze decorated with stars.
The 27 Steps Group is located a bit to the southwest of the Pixa’an Group. This is a large residential area, and as dense as the Pixa’an Group. It is accessed by a broad stairway to a terrace level. Another stairway then extends upward to numerous multi-chambered structures, patios and courtyards. Some of the structures still retain portions of a corbel vaulted roof. The stonework is very well executed, and would indicate that this group housed important members of the elite.
The Ya’axna Plaza Group is an area currently closed to the public. It is located 1/3 mile/600 meters northwest of the Northwest Complex. A number of early sub-platforms are located here dating from the Late Pre-Classic. The group is set around the plaza, and features Peten style architecture. It was originally named “The Three Brothers”, in reference to the three largest structures found here.
Structure E1 is located in the north of the plaza and faces south across the plaza. It has a long construction sequence that ranges from the Early Classic to the Late Classic. The structure is of a pyramidal design set upon a four-tiered platform base. A broad, central stairway leads up to a masonry temple structure that crowns the summit. A lidded ceramic vessel, part of a funeral offering, was discovered here. It contains the inscription Yax-Jul (?) - Chan-na, "Pierced blue sky", which may be the place name for Kohunlich, though it could also refer to an undocumented site related to the buried individual.
Structure E2 is located on the north-east corner of the square and is facing west. It also has a long constructive sequence that goes from the Early Classic to the Late Classic. The platform base has 3 tiers that could have been finished with a molding. A central stairway leads to a second level terrace. From there a second stairway leads to a summit temple that still exhibits a corbeled roof. A looted burial was identified within the platform base, while another burial from an earlier stage was found in which there were remains of red ceramic plates and bowls tentatively dated to 400-600 CE.
Structure E3 is found in the southeast corner and dates to the Early Classic. Though excavated, it is in a poor condition. It is of a pyramidal design and once had a summit temple of two rooms. The architectural style has been described as modified Peten.
The walking paths of Kohunlich are beautifully arranged through the shaded forest, giving the visitor a feeling of exploration and discovery. Highly recommended!
updated june 2021
ballcourt steve mellard
27 steps group hjpd
acropolis annex steve mellard
KOHUNLICH Quintana Roo (Yucatan), Mexico
temple of the king andre urbain
ya'axna plaza group structure E3 inah
palace of the stelae inah
plaza hundida steve mellard
house of the eleven doors victor grigas
temple of the masks andre urbain
northwest complex structure B-6 ela ginalska
ya'axna plaza group structure E1 inah
welcome to the mayan ruins website .
temple of the king victor grigas
building of the twin columns steve mellard
small structure east of the stands andre urbain