​​​​​welcome to the mayan ruins website .

group N                                                  hjpd

group B structure 6N1                                                  hjpd

group V stela 6                              ignacio cases.

group B structure 6N2                                             rio bec project

group B structure 6N1 burial ceramics                rio bec project


Group II stela 5                                                 alfonso Lacadena

group A structure 5N2             dominique michelet/cemca

groups A & B site map                                                   cemca

group D structure 7N1                                   rio bec project

group B structure 6N2 bench                             rio bec project

group B structure 6N1                                         giovanni frasetti

group C                                                                el jaguar viajero

group A structure 5N2         giovanni frasetti

group A structure 5N2 floor plan                       dominic michelet

rio bec location map                          nondedeo/deodat

group B structure 6N6                            el jaguar viajero

group A structure 5N2                                        eduardo gonzales

group D structure 7N2                                        rio bec project

rio bec site map                                                  nondedeo/deodat

group D patio                                                    el jaguar viajero

group V site plan                                nondedeo/arnauld/michelet                                             

group B structure 6N1                                 rio bec project

structure 5N2 pyramid temple                           eduardo gonzales

group A structure 5N2                                              giovanni frasetti

group A structure 5N2                                eduardo gonzales

share your photos with us.

group A structure 5N2 north facade             dominic michelet/cemca

group A structure 5N2 pyramid temple     dominic michelet/cemca

stela                                                                   giovanni frasetti

monument 1 "el gordo"                                 nondedeo/lacadena

group A structure 5N2                                                panza rayada

dzibil site plan                                               nondedeo/lacadena

kajtun site plan                                            nondedeo/lacadena

​RIO BEC- Campeche (Yucatan), Mexico

Rio Bec is an archaeological zone located in the southern region of the Yucatan Peninsula. Researchers have identified a concentration of 73 monumental groups (mostly residential) dispersed within an area of 11.5 square miles/30 square kilometers and a core grouping within 393 acres/159 hectares. These groups are mostly located on higher ground scattered between seasonal marshes and savannas.

 The unique style of architectural constructions observed within the archaeological zone has lent its name to describe a regional style found at several other nearby sites such as Xpuhil, Becan, Chicanna, and Hormiguero. Numerous structures exhibit ornate facades with zoomorphic doorways and twin towers at either end of a central construction. The steep stairways and crowning temples of the towers are non-functional. Decorative motifs include checkerboard and diamond shape designs.

Rio Bec is located 8 miles/13 km south from the ejido village of 20th of November. A turnoff with good signage to the ejido village is located about 6 miles/9.75km east of the town of Xpujil which is situated about midway between Chetumal and Escarcega on Highway 186. The distance from Highway 186 to the ejido village is about 3.25 miles/5.25 km. From there it is about an hour and a half over rough dirt trails. Guides with ATV’s or pick-up truck can be rented here (advance reservations recommended). Arrangements can also be made in Xpujil.

HOURS: no set hours, arrange visit through a guide service
ENTRANCE FEE: Not officially open to the public
GUIDES: Available at 20th of November village & Xpujil
SERVICES: None, bring plenty of water, and snacks
ACCOMMODATIONS: Xpujil offers several hotels. Day trip from the cities of Campeche or Chetumal.
GPS: (Group B) 18d 22’31” N, 89d 22’32” W
MISC: Hiking boots, long sleeve shirt, long pants, bug spray recommended
Best visited January-April

Ceramic evidence records a settlement history beginning in the Middle Preclassic (750-300 BCE) around 600 BCE. Monumental architecture began in earnest in the Late Preclassic (300 BCE-250 CE). The site area reached its apogee throughout the 9th century, and appears to have been abandoned by the end of the Terminal Classic (850-1050 CE), or possibly a bit later.

Unfortunately, there is little legible information about Rio Bec’s rulers, and sociopolitical interactions with other sites. Eighteen stelae have been located within three of the monumental groups with eleven containing inscriptions and iconography, though they are severely eroded. Six of the stelae, however, have produced legible dates, and three may exhibit a common emblem glyph.

Three stelae from Group II have provided some information. Stela 5 has a reconstructed Early Classic date of 4 Ajaw 13 Wo- May 15, 475 CE. It marks a Katun Ending, and depicts a ruler standing in profile with a captive in front of him. A short text of two glyphs has been tentatively interpreted as “He of eight thousand captives”. It should be noted that cacao tributes were also measured in units of eight thousand.

Stela 3 has a partial reconstructed date of either 672 or 711 CE and shows a ruler, whose name includes the honorific “Kawiil”, who is “setting the Katun Ending Stone (stela)”. Stela 1 has what may be an emblem glyph, Bolonil, at the end of its eroded text.

The Kajtun Group has two stelae, Stelae 1 and 4, that contain some legible information. Stela 1 mentions an individual, Chan Chaak, and identifies him as an Ajaw/Ruler of B’olonil. Stela 4 has a reconstructed Initial Series date equivalent to 4 Ajaw 13 Yax-August 20, 731 CE.

The Dzibil Group have two stelae that has some legible text, Stelae 6 and 7. Stela 6 has a partial text that includes a Short Count date within the first ho’tuun/5-year period of 9 Ajaw which would fall in the year 795 CE. It names an individual, Chiliim B’ahlam.

Group V features a stela, Stela 2, whose upper section has an Initial series date of 3 Ajaw 3 Kej- August 15, 869 CE. This is the last inscribed date known for Rio Bec. Stela 6 has a reconstructed Initial Series date of Ajaw 13 Mak, October 3 795 CE. It displays a ruler grasping a spear/rod standing before a kneeling captive.

Rio Bec was most likely subordinate to the nearby regional capital of Becan located just 12.25 miles/19.5 km away. The great Kaan kingdom (c.550-c.736 CE) located first at Dzibanche/Ichkabal(?), and later at Calakmul (35 miles/56 km to the southwest) probably held influence over the entire Rio Bec area. It was not until Calakmul was decisively defeated by Tikal in 736 CE that the expansion of Rio Bec and the full development of its architectural style came into its own.

At the end of the Late Classic (750-900 CE) sculptural and textual expressions seems to indicate an influence from the Puuc area to the north.

The Rio Bec region experienced the same decline as many other sites beginning in the 10th century, with no new carved monuments or monumental constructions, and was most likely abandoned in the 11th or 12th century.

There has been discussion among researchers regarding the sociopolitical organization of the Rio Bec zone due to its atypical settlement pattern. While some of the Late Preclassic/Early Classic groups clearly show a typical architectural layout and standard stela iconography indicating Maya dynastic rulership, by the Late Classic things get a bit murky. It has been suggested that as there is no large, central nucleus, and that most of the structures seem to be residential in nature, that the zone was a collection of individual elite families in the Late to Terminal Classic.

It is only in the groups dating from the Late Preclassic/Early Classic, Groups II, Group V, and Kajtun, that display an organized layout around a central plaza with pyramids, stelae, palaces, range type structures, and ballcourts. The architectural style of these groups seem to indicate a relationship to the Peten area to the south.

The Rio Bec region was first named by Teobert Maler, though he did not have an opportunity to visit the area. The first visit and reports were made by French explorer and archaeologist Comte Maurice de Perigny in 1908 who discovered Structure 5N2. There were no roads in this area at the time, only dirt trails, and it was densely forested, a situation that still exists within much of the Rio Bec zone more than a century later. 

Raymond Merwin and Clarence L. Hay of the Peabody Museum at Harvard University commenced explorations in 1912 and identified Groups A-G, including the discovery of Structure 6N1 in Group B. This structure was lost again for another 60 years until rediscovered in 1973 by filmmakers Hugh and Suzanne Johnston, led by Juan de la Cruz Briceño Ramírez who was caretaker at the time at Becan.

Karl Ruppert and John Denison of the Carnegie Expedition investigated Rio Bec in 1933 and identified previously unreported groups, Groups I-IV, but were unable to locate some of the previous groups reported on due to dense vegetation.

Excavations in 1976 were carried out in Group B by the University of the Americas. Later excavations and investigations were carried out by Ramón Carrasco (1986) who identified Groups H–N and R. Agustín Peña Castillo conducted investigations in 1998. A French team of archaeologists from the National Centre for Scientific Research (CEMCA) headed by Dominique Michelet, Philippe Nodédéo, and Marie-Charlotte Arnauld, began investigations, excavations and restorations beginning in 2006, and again in 2019-2022.

Rio Bec has been described as more of a collection of small, individual groups, as opposed to the more familiar Maya site layout with a large, central plaza surrounded by structures of a civic/ritual nature, with adjoining groups often connected by sacbeob. The archaeological zone, unlike most other Maya sites, has no overall central axis.

There have been 73 monumental groups recorded, mostly small complexes of a residential nature, spread out over a large area on the higher elevations. Structures exhibiting standing architecture include ten with towers, seven featuring roof combs, and twenty-eight having decorative façades.

Civic/ritual structures such as ballcourts, pyramid/temples, stelae, and range type structures with galleries have only been found in three groups. In relation to Group B these are: Kajtun to the northeast; Group II to the southwest; and Group V to the northwest. All three of these groups have hardly any residential concentrations, with each displaying several stelae. The remainder of the groups, including those that have structures flanked by twin towers, have been identified as being mostly of a residential nature, and of a later construction.

The two most visited groups are Group A and Group B which both display excellent examples of the Rio Bec architectural style. They are each set around a small plaza.

Group A is located 984 feet/300 meters north of group B across a seasonal wetland. The structures ring a small patio/plaza. Structure 5N2 at Group A was the first structure that was discovered and reported on, and whose distinctive architecture gave the region its name.

Structure 5N2 is a multi-room palace set on an East/West axis located on the north side of the patio/plaza. Its main façade faces to the south. The structure incorporates fourteen chambers, four of them being double rooms. Pyramidal towers with faux stairways are set at the back of the structure located on either end. Interior stairways within the towers have been identified. Ten offerings have been recovered from within the structure.

The south side of the 5N2 exhibits a central structure of a pyramid-temple design set between the two towers. The temple chamber is located on the summit accessed via a central stairway facing onto the patio/plaza. Two recessed, double chamber rooms flank the pyramid stairway. An additional double-chamber room is found on either side in front of each tower, separated by a small patio.

The north side of the structure has three longitudinal chambers that are situated between the towers. The exterior façade incorporates six decorative, geometric panels that frame the entryways.  

Two small structures are located southeast of the palace, Structures 5N4 and 5N5. Structure 5N4 is of a residential nature comprising two vaulted rooms. It faces to the south away from Structure 5N2. Structure 5N5 is thought to have been a storehouse, and features two chambers facing north towards Structure 5N4. Its roof and a part of its walls were made of perishable materials.

About 164 feet/50 meters to the north of Group A is Group G which comprises around a dozen small residential units. Seasonal wetlands are located further South and East.

Group B is situated south of Group A, and consists of several structures scattered around an irregular plaza set on a North/South axis. The principal structure here is Structure 6N1 located on the east side of the plaza on a raised platform.

Structure 6N1 has been determined to be a palace. Similar to Structure 5N2, the palace has a central structure (though only of one story) with twin towers on the north and south sides. Checkerboard panels flank the central, east-facing entryway under which are found a series of drum colonnettes. The single entryway opens into an antechamber. The north and south sides of the antechamber each have a single entryway that leads into a double-chambered room. There are five undecorated benches within the chambers.  A lattice worked roof comb graces the central portion of the structure.

A burial was located within Structure 6N1. Items recovered include incised ceramic bowls.

Located 23 feet/7 meters to the north of Structure 6N1 is Structure 6N2. This structure is again similar in architectural style to Structures 5N2 and 6N1. It has been determined to be a palace featuring ten chambers. The structure is set to the back of a raised platform terrace accessed by a broad, east-facing stairway.

The east-facing side has two towers flanking a recessed, central structure exhibiting a single entryway. The entryway opens into an antechamber which leads to three chambers; one to the north, and one to the south, with the last on the west side which is accessed by a step. All three of these chambers have a bench against the far wall.

The three benches each have rare, partial remains of brightly painted scenes and glyphs. The colors include green, red, blue, orange, and black. Each bench features a scene having a pair of seated dignitaries, some involving super-natural beings. The bench supports display figures in molded stucco.

The bench in the north chamber has a preserved Short Count date of 15 Tun 9 Ajaw, which would correspond to 3 Ajaw 3 Yax-July 22, 805 CE. The bench in the west room has a partial glyph reading “the house of”, and a separate text naming an individual named Chan/Kan B'ohb' Tok', possibly the owner of the structure or other high-ranking individual. The three benches may form a single narrative.

The east side of the plaza features two structures, Structures 6N4 and 6N6, with the south side having a single small structure, Structure 6N9.

The Kajtun Group, and its satellite complex the Dzibil Group, are located about 1.7 miles/3 km to the northeast of Group B across seasonal wetlands. The Kajtun group has a well-defined series of structures set around a central plaza with numerous smaller plazas, courtyards and patios containing sixty-two structures in all. Many of the structures date from the Early Classic and show a strong Peten influence.

The central plaza of Kajtun is found on the west side of the group, and measures about 164 feet/50 meters on each side. Eight structures ring the plaza with Structure 1 being the principal structure.

Structure 1 is a pyramidal structure located on the east side of the plaza and has a height of about 39 feet/12 meters. Four stelae, Stelae 1-4, are set at the base of the pyramid. In the center of the plaza is a plain stela, Stela 5. Stela 1 mentions an individual, Chan Chaak, and identifies him as an Ajaw/Ruler of B’olonil. Stela 4 has a reconstructed Initial Series date equivalent to 4 Ajaw 13 Yax-August 20, 731 CE, and references a Fire Ritual.

Structure 2 is found on the south side of the plaza. This structure is a long range-type structure and has a total height of 23 feet/7 meters and a length of about 197 feet/60 meters. It has two interconnected galleries that run the length of the structure.

Structure 42 is located about 361 feet/110 meters to the northeast of Structure 1, and forms the north side of a small plaza. This is another range-type structure about 118 feet/ 36 meters in length. The structure is divided lengthwise by four interior wall sections that create two galleries that run the length of the structure. The north side of the structure is entered between ten columns. The south side is entered between four pilasters.

An altar is found on the northside of Structure 42, while on the southside is Monument 1. The stone monument is of a crudely shaped figure, and has been named “El Gordo”.

 Dzibil, a small satellite complex, is located about 0.3 miles/500 meters to the southeast of the Kajtun Group. This complex houses a single pyramidal structure set at the back of a raised terrace with a height of around 26 feet/8 meters, and faces to the southwest.  Two stelae, Stelae 6 and 7, were discovered at the foot of the pyramid.

Stela 6 has a partial text that includes a Short Count date within the first ho’tuun/5-year period of 9 Ajaw which would fall in the year 795 CE. It names an individual, Chiliim B’ahlam, with a relationship, perhaps dynastic, to a partially deciphered character named “…Tok”. This partial name also appears on one of the benches in Structure 6N2 dated to 805 CE.

Group II shows evidence of its origins back to the Middle Preclassic (700-300 BCE), and like the Kajtun Group the principal structures are set around a main plaza. The two most important structures, Structures 1 and 3, form a “E” Complex that was designed for astronomical purposes. This arrangement would seem to indicate a formal Maya rulership layout with a strong Peten influence.

Structure 1 is found on the east side of the plaza, and has a central structure of a pyramidal design. Extending out on both the north and south sides of the pyramidal structure are the typical range type structures one would expect to find. At the foot of the pyramidal structure are 3 stelae, Stelae 1-3, and an altar. 

Stela 3 has a reconstructed date of either 672 or 711 CE as part of the date is missing, and references to a Period Ending. Stela 1 has within its remaining text an Emblem Glyph referencing B’olonil.

Structure III is a large pyramid located on the west side of the plaza opposite Structure I. A central, plaza-facing stairway leads up to the level summit. Stela 5 was located on the summit, and displays a restored Initial Series date of 4 Ajaw 13 Wo, May 15, 475 CE. The stela only retains its lower portion. It depicts an individual in profile with a bound captive at his feet, a standard depiction of rulership found throughout the Maya area.

Attached to the north side of Structure III is Structure IV, one of three ball courts found at Rio Bec. The ball court is set on an East/West axis. The south side of the plaza houses a small pyramidal structure, Structure II, along with three or more low, long platforms. A plain stela, Stela 4, is set in front of Structure II.

Group V is found 1.5 miles/2.4 km northwest of Group B, and is set on an axis about 10 degrees east of North. Several structures surround a main plaza. The earliest structure here is a ball court, Structure II, located on the south side of the plaza. It has an Early Classic foundation later modified between 425-550 CE. The ball court is oriented on an East/West axis, and is positioned in front of the main entry stairway to the group.

The other standing architecture has been dated to after 750 CE and built atop earlier foundations. Structure IV located on the north side of the plaza is the largest structure of the group. It has a high platform base housing three double-chamber rooms. Probable Post Classic graffiti has been observed within two of the rooms.

Structure V is on the east side of the plaza. This structure consists of a low platform base housing several inter-connected chambers. Stela 2 is set in front of the structure, and has an Initial Series date of 3 Ajaw 3 Kej- August 15, 869 CE, this being the last inscribed date known for Rio Bec.

Behind Structure V is a raised area where two stelae, Stelae 3 and 4, were located. Stela 4 has what may be an emblem glyph within the severely eroded text. Further to the east at a lower level is a medium-size mound housing Stelae 5 and 6. Stela 6 has a reconstructed Initial Series date that corresponds to 11 Ajaw 13 Mak-October 3, 795 CE. This stela also depicts a standing ruler with a captive at his feet. An altar was found in the center of a small plaza in front of the two stelae. The late date of this group may have been an attempt to reestablish  dynastic rule over the area.

Group D is located about 312 feet/95 meters to the south of Group B. The group features 5 structures set around a small patio on a north/south axis. Structure 7N2 is located on a small, north-facing platform incorporating a double-chamber room. It has been excavated and partially restored. The rear chamber of the room features probable Post Classic graffiti etched into the rear wall.

Structure 7N1 is found on the south side of the patio. Two burials were located within the structure.

There are numerous other groups in the archaeological zone, some of them exhibiting standing architecture.

group II site plan                                         nondedeo/lacadena

group D structure 7N2 graffiti             rio bec project

structure 5N2                    dominic michelet/cemca

groups B, C & D                             nondedeo/arnauld/michelet

group B structure 6N4                               el jaguar viajero