From the entrance, a trail winds through thick jungle to an impressive pyramid called Templo 24. This pyramid occupies the west side of Plaza B which is surrounded on its north, south and east sides by un-excavated temples and palaces. A low altar, picturesquely overgrown with trees, stands in the center of Plaza B. Further to the east is the Gran Plaza, which spreads out before a huge man-made platform called the Gran Basamento. Standing on the broad level top are Templo 1 and a second pyramid called Templo Las Vasijas. Located at the top of a ceremonial staircase are a pair of large altars called Los Gemelos. To the south of the Gran Plaza are the ruins of a residential area. This section is called Las Vias and was once occupied by the city's elite.
When we visited, the site was quiet and serene, and almost empty of people. However, cruise ships dock regularly at Mayahual, about an hour away, so there may be times when busloads of noisy tourists swarm the place. The Archeological Zone is open from 8 AM to 5 PM (last access at 4:30). If you get there early, you can probably avoid the crowds. General admission is $60 pesos ($3.14 USD) and parking is free. There are restrooms at the entrance, but no other services are available at the site or in the immediate area.
The name of the city, which means "Place of the Red Maiz", comes from the small pueblo a few miles away. No one knows the original name. The first people may have arrived in the area as early as 1000 BC. However, the first settlements weren't constructed until the Late Pre-Classic Era (200 BC). These settlements were gradually incorporated into an urban area which peaked between 300 AD and 700 AD. The Maya abandoned Chacchoben about 1000 AD, except to use its temples and pyramids for ritual purposes. This continued for the following several centuries. Further excavation will, no doubt, result in more information. Unlike other sites I have visited, there are few informational signs at Chacchoben other than one at the entrance. As a result, I had to do a great deal of research to come up with the fairly limited information I present here.
Templo 24 & Plaza B
In the center of the staircase, part way up to the terrace, you can see an opening which appears to have been made by archeologists looking for a burial. In this part of the Maya world, it is not unusual to find human remains buried under the steps of a pyramid or temple. Usually these are elite individuals and their families. For example, at Oxtankah's Structure VI, the remains of 12 individuals were found in four separate tombs under the stairs. However, I have not been able to determine what, if anything, archeologists found when they dug into these steps.
Gran Basamento & Plaza
second of the only two stelae found at Chaccoben.
The rectangular platform rises at least 10m (32ft) above the plaza and measures 99m x 102m (324ft x 336ft) on the sides. Atop the Gran Basamento are two pyramids and several temples. While these structures are impressive, they are dwarfed by the great platform on which they sit. The number of laborers and amount of man-hours it must have taken to construct the Gran Basamento are mind-boggling. This is particularly so, since the Maya had no metal tools, wheeled vehicles, or draft animals.
Templo de las Vasijas
Templo de las Vasijas sits on the northern edge of the Gran Basamento. This is the first pyramid you encounter when you emerge onto the great platform. Templo de las Vasijas (Temple of the Vessels) was named for the ceramic cups, pitchers, bowls, and plates found during its excavation. These vessels once contained offerings left during religious ceremonies. Rising to about 8m (26ft), Templo de las Vasijas is the smaller of the Gran Basamento's two pyramids. The pyramid's single staircase leads up to the remains of a temple on the top level.
influence of the Petén architectural style. Elements of the later Chenes and Rio Bec styles can be found in other parts of the ruins. This mix of styles demonstrates how ideas were transmitted along Yucatan's trade routes, along with goods. Archeologists have found evidence of a connection to Dzibanche, another Maya city located to the southwest of Chacchoben.
ruled by nine Lords. At the base of the staircase is a small structure archeologists have dubbed the Adosado (Attached) Temple. It was added to the pyramid in the Post-Classic Era (1000 AD - 1500 AD), when the city had been abandoned as an urban center but its temples were still used for ceremonial purposes.
Adosado Temple creates a threshold between the earthly and the sacred realms and may also have played a role in astronomical observations.
Las Vias, the elite residential area
wide variety of trees, including ramón, cedro, chicozapote, alamo, banyon, guanacaste, and various palms. Local animals include deer, peccary, armadillo, gray fox, spider and howler monkeys, jaguar, ocelot, puma, and tapir.
Maya farmer named Servillano Cohuo was looking for farmland when he stumbled across these ancient ruins. He built a house for his family on the Gran Plaza beside the Gran Basamento and grew crops in the area. However, he recognized the value of the ruins and left them untouched and covered by jungle for the next 30 years.
In 1972, an archeologist named Dr. Peter Harrison traveled by helicopter over the usually flat jungle landscape. Looking down, he was surprised to see the tell-tale shapes of temples and pyramids protruding through the thick forest canopy. Harrison returned and, after mapping the ruins, reported his discovery to the Mexican government. Servillano Cohuo was allowed to remain as caretaker of the ruins until he died in 1991, after which the government expropriated the site. However, it wasn't until 1994 that Juan Rique, of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), began excavations. In 2002, INAH finally opened Chacchoben to the public. Today, the site is run entirely by workers from the local pueblos, rather than employees of the federal government.
This completes my posting on Chacchoben. I hope you have enjoyed it and, if so, you will leave any thought or questions in the Comments section below. If you leave a question, PLEASE leave your email address so that I can respond.
Hasta luego, Jim