Expert opinion
A Tour of Chunhuhub

The first thing to note is that the entrance to the archeological site of Chunhuhub shows visitors a collection of sculptures from nearby Xcochkax; this site is closed to the public, so several of these artefacts are on display in Chunhuhub to protect them from the elements. Some remarkable exhibits include a block with a dancer, jambs that show important figures and corner pieces with the faces of gods. Also there are ashlars with hieroglyphs and the cover of a vault with a relief of the Pop sign—a symbol of political authority and also one used to mark the first of the 18 Maya months.

Architecture was at its most elaborate in the western part of the Yucatan peninsula between 800 and 1000 AD, with Puuc-style buildings such as those found in Chunhuhub among the finest examples from this period of growth. All of the exterior and interior stonework on the monumental Chunhuhub buildings is clearly in the Puuc style of architecture with a commanding beauty that highlights the chiaroscuro effect on the smooth walls, alternating with the openings or entrances to the chambers.

Two excavated and restored pre-Hispanic constructions are open to visitors in the Chunhuhub archeological site: the first is the Palace or Structure 1, built on a platform yet to be explored. This structure formed part of a series of houses for high-ranking members of society. Archeological digs have only restored some sectors that reveal the monumentality and wealth invested by the valley’s former occupants. The quality of stonework is impressive and the skilled assembly speaks highly both of the Maya architects and of the stonemasons who left us this invaluable legacy. The structure has four wide entrances. The second or central one (the first one has not been restored) is profusely decorated on both sides. The frieze features seated sculptures of the sun god Kinich Ahau, in alternation with bats. The construction behind shows chambers with Maya vaulted roofs but no work has been carried out there yet.

Structure 2. Just beside one side of the Palace and with three rooms. The facade is smooth and the half-molding, like the corniche, is decorated with smooth cylindrical shapes. The frieze includes sets of small tambours with joints, but highlight the patterns on the entrance openings, evoking large zoomorphic masks. A partially restored set of stairs is located between both structures.

Ritual dances and their religious associations played an important role in the daily life of the ancient Maya. This piece, which comes from Xcochkax, measures 41 inches high by 20 inches thick.
Palace at Chunhuhub
Present-day view of the Palace at Chunhuhub
Structure 2
Structure II at Chunhuhub, located just to the south of the Palace.
Chunhuhub. Fotógrafo: Maler
The photograph of the Palace taken by Teobert Maler at the end of the nineteenth century provides a clear idea of the state in which he found the building. Note, on the right-hand sector of the frieze, the sculpture of Kinich Ahau or Lord of the Solar Face.
Plan of Chunhuhub
Plan of the sector of Chunhuhub open to visitors.
Cornerpiece with stucco mask
Some of the buildings at Xcochkax had their corners decorated with the faces of deities, occupying both sides of the ashlars carved for this purpose.
Jamb with figure
Structure C4-6 at Xcochkax had jambs with images of luxuriously dressed characters wearing headdresses with long feathers. They flanked the entrances to the high officials' rooms.
Kinich Ahau
Lord of the Solar Face (Kinich Ahau) was the name by which the pre-Hispanic Maya referred to the deified sun. Evidently, it was conceived in human form, although it bore the features of a bird in its daytime invocation, and was perceived as a jaguar in its nocturnal presence. The piece is exhibited today in the Baluarte de la Soledad, in the city of Campeche.
Cover 1 with Pop
The vaulted ceilings of some important rooms were decorated with images or reliefs showing different signs, at the top or on the sides of the false arch. In this case a Pop or mat sign was carved, symbolizing political power. It comes from structure C4-7 at Xcochkax.
Pop cover C4 7
Drawing of the Pop motif depicted at the top of a vault of building C4-7 in Xcochkax.

  • Maler, Teobert, 1997, Península Yucatán, Berlín, Gebr. Mann Verlag.
  • Michelet, D., P. Becquelin y M-C. Arnauld, 2000, Mayas del Puuc. Arqueología de la región de Xculoc, Campeche. México, Gobierno del Estado de Campeche / CEMCA.
  • Pollock, Harry E. D., 1980, "The Puuc. An architectural Survey of the Hill Country of Yucatan and Northern Campeche, Mexico", en Memoirs of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University.
  • Stephens, John L., 1963, Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, 2 vols., New York, Dover Publications Inc.


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