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structure C-1                                                       steve mellard


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structure D raised plaza                                            steve mellard

structure A-1                                                              steve mellard

structure D-2                                   steve melard

structure B-2                                                                 INAH

structure C-4 c1973                                                        INAH

perimeter wall                                                        steve mellard

group C overview                              google earth/steve mellard

group E/F overview                          google earth/steve mellard

structure E-2                                                           steve mellard

structure D-1 temple chamber                                 steve mellard

structure C-4                                                            steve mellard

temple structure E-1                                             steve mellard

structure D-1                                                           steve mellard

structure C-1                                                         steve mellard

structure C-2 interior                                            steve mellard

structure C-1                                                        steve mellard

lintel 1 glyphs                                            karl herbert mayer

structure F-1                                                              steve mellard

XAMAN HA-Quintana Roo, Mexico

Xaman Ha, Northern Water in Yucatek Maya, is an archeological zone located within the Playacar sub-division of Playa del Carmen. It is a costal settlement, and was an important commercial port, and embarkation point to the sacred shrines on Cozumel/Tatun Cuzamil island. The structures visible today date from the Post Classic (1150-1526), and are built in the East Coast Style as seen along the Caribbean coast at other sites such as Tulum, Xel Ha and El Meco.

The site is linear in nature following the coastline, and is currently spread out over 1.8 miles/2.9 km in pockets within the upscale community, with a small structure located within downtown Playa del Carmen.

Playa del Carmen is a 45-minute drive south from Cancun. It is a very popular tourist center in its own right, and is directly across from the well-known cruise ship destination of Cozumel. Entry by car into the sub-division is restricted to residents and hotel guests. However, parking outside the entrance is available, and one can walk into the sub-division, and then to the site. The easiest entry is near the intersection of 10th Avenue South and 3rd Street south. The main groups are located along avenue Bahia del Espiritu Santo, one block in from the beach.

HOURS: 8 A.M.-5 P.M. everyday
GUIDES: none on site
ACCOMMODATIONS: Plenty of hotels/restaurants in Playa del Carmen
GPS: 20d 37’07” N, 87d 04’40” W (Structure C-1)
MISC: restricted access, bring water and snacks

Ceramic shards reveal an early occupation from the Late Preclassic (350 BCE-250CE). The structures one sees today nearly all date from the Post Classic. There have been no stelae or other inscriptions recovered to identify its rulers or political relationships with other sites, though all the coastal sites were linked by trade. It very likely was a commercial port for the important inland site of Coba, and may have been under its political influence. The coastal site of Xcaret is only 3.4 miles/5.5 km to the south.

Xaman Ha would likely have been one of the main embarkation points for pilgrims to travel by canoe to the important fertility shrine of Ix Chel on Cozumel Island.  This traffic would have provided the site with a degree of renown and importance as pilgrims would have remained at the site for food, shelter, prayers, and later, transportation to and from Cozumel. It had a similar status to that of the relationship between El Meco and Isla Mujeres further up the coast, and to its sister site, Xcaret, to the south. In the Late Post Classic Xaman Ha appears to have been associated with Ekab, one of a dozen or so political entities on the Yucatan Peninsula.

A lintel, Lintel 1, is located within Structure C1 and contains a date in what is known as the Short Count. This simplified dating system was popular in the Post Classic replacing the Long Count dating system. The problem with this system is that, unlike the Long Count, it does not provide an exact correlation to contemporary dates, as its dates recycle every 52 years. The glyphs include 1 Ahau and mention the 13th Katun. Researchers have identified two dates that could correspond to this information. The first is 1 Ahau 8 Yax, June 16, 980 CE, which may be too early to fit within the architectural context of the structure. The second date offered is 1 Ahau 8 Zac, April 1, 1376, a very late date, but one that would certainly reside within the Late Post Classic. If so, this date may represent the latest dated structure in the Yucatan.

The site is briefly mentioned in early colonial records as it was the second site founded by the Spanish in the Yucatan, though abandoned after a few years. It was first reported on by Sylvanus Morley and Thomas Gann with the Carnegie Institution in 1918. In 1926 Gregory Mason and Herbert Spinden surveyed the area. The Mexican Scientific Expedition, led by Luis Rosado Vega, explored the area in 1937.  Anthony Andrews and David Gilder conducted investigations on Groups A-C in 1972-73. INAH completed initial fieldwork in 1978 reporting on 18 structures. Investigations were also carried out in this year by Karl Herbert Mayer concerning Lintel 1. The site is currently maintained by INAH.

The structures that remain today are spread out along the coastline, and would seem to encompass a total length of about 1.8 miles/2.9 km. INAH has identified 18 structures that are mostly found within the five main groups centered around one or more plazas. There are a few platforms/structures that stand isolated on their own, while others were possibly lost to development. The main groups are separated by residential units, and except for Groups A and E/F, are located along avenue Bahia del Espiritu Santo.

The first group encountered within the sub-division is Group B located just inside the entry gates to the community. This group comprises two structures. Structure B1 displays the remains of a single chamber that possibly retains portions of a corbeled vault. Structure B2 is a mostly intact two chamber structure entered between twin columns and features a flat roof. The group is not open to public visitation, though it can be viewed through a fence.

 Group C is located further along Bahia del Espiritu Santo accessed through yet another security gate. It is composed of 4 masonry constructions that are centered around three small plazas that run north to south. A low, masonry wall surrounds the group to the west and north. The structures are aligned between 20-27 degrees east of North.  The main structure here is known as Structure C-1.

Structure C1 is found at the north end of Group C. It is a two-chamber temple structure typical of East Coast Style set on a low platform, and faces east to the ocean a short distance away. It is in a fairly good state of preservation. Four steps lead up to a small terrace. The structure is entered between two columns, one of which still stands. The interior chamber was most likely a sanctuary. Traces of turquoise and orange paint within a black outline were initially described on one of the walls. The lintel over this interior entryway is where the glyphic inscription displaying the Short Count date was discovered. It consists of four glyph blocks accompanied by coefficent numerals. There are remains on the exterior of the structure of the original stucco surface, as well as, a medial molding and an upper molding. This structure forms the sides of two small plazas, here named Plaza 1 and Plaza 2. (See the site map for clarification.)

Plaza 1 is ringed by two structures. Structure C-1 forms the east side of the plaza, and Structure C-2, forms the south side of the plaza.

Structure C-2 is set on a low platform with a north facing entryway. A single set of 4 steps, flanked by two single slabs of limestone, leads up to the single chamber. Only the lower portions of the walls remain. The rear wall of the chamber features a small bench which may have been an altar. There is an east facing terrace that may have held a structure of perishable materials.

The north and west sides of Plaza 1 are open. Further to the west is an overgrown area, and beyond that a low wall about 1,173 feet/360 meters in length, and about 3 feet/ 1 meter in height.

Plaza 2 is framed by three structures. Structure C-1 on the north, Structure C-2 on the west, and Structure C-3, on the southwest corner. The east side of the plaza is open to the sea.

Structure C-3 appears to have had a north/south orientation, and rests on a small platform. Unfortunately, a huge Ficus tree is slowly destroying what little remains of the single-chamber walls. While picturesque, the tree should be immediately removed.

A structure, Structure C-4, is located about 115 feet/35 meters to the southwest of Structure C-3. It is hard to determine if the space between the two structures may have been a plaza at one time, but would seem likely, and is identified here as Plaza 3. This structure rests on a pronounced platform base, and faces east to the sea. An east facing set of in-set steps leads up to two small terraces. A linear, multi-chambered structure is set on a third level and faces east. The main section of the structure is on the south side of the platform. Two limestone columns allowed entry into the two-chamber structure, of which one column and one chamber remain standing. The first chamber has completely collapsed. The inner sanctuary still displays its corbel vaulted ceiling, and retains much of its exterior stucco surface and medial molding. The northern extension of the structure features two single chambers that open onto the small east facing terrace. They still retain some low walls, and most likely featured a wood beam roof, since disintegrated.  

An interesting feature is observed along the shoreline in front of Group C. Historical Google Earth images show an elongated pile of rock that was once located under dry sand but is now partially submerged as is seen in the accompanying Google Earth image. It could be man-made, and may have been an ancient, or perhaps an early colonial breakwater or pier. Alternately, it could just be a natural formation.

A single structure is located further along the avenue about 1,167 feet/358 meters south from Group C, and is designated here as Structure D-2. The two-chamber structure sits atop a platform about 3 feet/1 meter in height. It has an east facing entryway that opens into the first chamber. A second doorway leads into an inner sanctuary chamber. What appears to be an altar platform is situated against the west wall. The exterior walls retain sections of an upper molding and stucco finish.

The main portion of Group D is found a short distance from Structure D-2 along the avenue. This group consists of a temple pyramid with adjoining platforms on an east/west axis. The whole group is about 115 feet/35.25 meters in length, and 97 feet/29.75 meters in width. The principal structure is named here as Structure D-1.

Structure D-1 is the tallest structure at the site measuring about 15 feet/4.6 meters in height, and may have been the focal point of the site. It has a platform base composed of at least four tiers, and is crowned with a multi-chamber temple. An extended stairway is located on the east side of the structure, and leads up to the temple. The temple faces to the east, but the entire east wall is destroyed. The south wall has a small window, and the west side has a standing doorway that leads into a rear patio. A short series of steps lead down to an extensive platform which forms a raised plaza that extends out to the west.

The raised plaza is divided into two unequal sections separated by a ground level pathway that is entered into from the west end. The north sub-plaza displays the remains of a low platform, and may have held structures of a perishable nature. It is possible that the rest of both sub-plazas were ringed by structures of a perishable nature. The ground-level pathway extends in about 45 feet/13.75 meters, before it turns north a short distance, then east and dead-ends below the temple pyramid patio. The stonework that the pathway reveals is of a very well executed nature, and could indicate an earlier construction date for the platform. The south side of the structure faces across a possible plaza to a linear series of rubble which may be the remains of low platforms.

Groups E and F are located to the west of Group D. Follow a trail that leads out to a public road. Turn to the right and make another right onto Xaman Ha Avenue. This will lead one directly to Groups E/F. When you are finished visiting this group continue again to the right on Xaman Ha Avenue to exit the sub-division, about .55 miles/.88 km.

Groups E/F consist of three closely placed, temple structures nicely aligned about 43 degrees east of North. A very unusual grouping, and may indicate an astronomical association. The small, single-chamber temples are each set on a low platform, with a single entryway. Each temple entryway faces a separate direction.

The southern-most structure has been named Structure E-1. It has a large platform base measuring about 77 feet/ 23.5 meters in length, and about 39 feet/12 meters in depth. A set of steps rises up to the small temple structure that faces to the northwest.

Structure E2 is the central structure, and also has a large platform base that measures about 58 feet/17.75 meters extending out in front of the temple structure, and faces to the southeast. It has a length of around 39 feet/23.5 meters, and is formed of two distinct levels with a broad stairway on the first tier, and a second set of steps on the second tier leading to the temple.

Structure F1 is the last of the three linear structures, and is the smallest in area of the three, measuring about 24 feet/7.25 meters in width, and 18 feet/5.5 meters deep. The temple faces to the northeast.  It is raised up on a higher one-level platform about 3.5 feet/1 meter in height, and has a nicely executed stairway on its temple entrance side.

Group A is located to the north of the other groups in downtown Playa del Carmen on 2nd Street north. It is about 159 feet/48 meters in from the beach, next to the Kinta Kan Hotel. It is a fairly intact, single structure exhibiting a single chamber and set on a very low platform. The entryway faces to the east, and is now mostly obscured by tree roots. The west wall is destroyed leaving a clear view of the interior of the structure displaying the remnants of a corbeled vault. A small terrace extends to the north from the main chamber and reveals the remains of masonry walls of a second, smaller chamber. It can be accessed through the café next door.

There are reported to be a few other remains of structures within the Playacar community. When information becomes available it will be reported here.

Xaman Ha is a great little site, easy to reach from either Cancun or Tulum for a day trip. Playa del Carmen’s 5th Avenue is a well-known visitor destination in its own right with tasty restaurants, and a nice beach.

structure C-2                                                          steve mellard

structure A-1                                                                steve mellard

recovered ceramics  museo maya                      steve mellard

looking onto plaza 2                                             steve mellard

recovered ceramic  museo maya                        steve mellard

group E/F overview                               google earth/steve mellard

structure A-1 c1973                                                         INAH

structure C-3                                                            steve mellard

group C submerged formation                             google earth

structure B-1                                                                    INAH

recovered ceramic  museo maya                       steve mellard

structure C-2                                                            steve mellard

structure E-1 temple                                                steve mellard

structure D-2                                                        steve mellard

structure C-4                                                             steve mellard

site overview                                     google earth/steve mellard