Expert opinion
A Look at the Palace-Temple

The Palace-Temple of Tabasqueño has eight chambers on the first level, two of them just beneath the flight of steps. This is notable, because there are very few examples of steps being built over two rooms. The north-facing temple chamber is on the second floor; the one looking south collapsed some years ago.

The north façade of the Palace-Temple is a prime example of the Chenes architectural style, with the image of a large, stone mosaic mask representing the Earth Monster (Itzamná) with its jaws agape. Its upper central incisors are T-shaped and thus show the sign “Ik”, associated with the sun god and meaning breath, life, and germination. Its large mouth is also T-shaped, but inverted. The deity is also replicated on both corners with eight stacked or cascading masks with hooked noses. Highlighting the building’s monumentality, on the roof there was also an openwork wall or roof comb with stucco figures, although today this is only partially preserved. Teoberto Maler reported that the entire mask and roof comb were painted bright red. This expert on the Maya people worked on the architectural records and calculated its total height at just under 49 feet.

In his study of this chamber’s orientation, Abel Morales López (Autonomous University of Campeche) indicates that during the summer solstices the light at sunrise and sunset illuminates the interior walls. Morales López also reported finding graffiti—drawings engraved into the wall’s stucco coating—depicting stars, a seated figure and what appeared to be a day-count indicated by vertical lines and crosses arranged along two horizontal lines. Ivan Sprajc and Pedro F. Sánchez Nava, of the INAH, indicate that the orientation of the Palace-Temple is indeed connected to the position of the sun, while Structure 3 (near the Tower) probably indicated the position of the sunrises on February 19 and October 22.

According to Maler’s report, on the first level of the Palace-Temple, the façade of the chamber located at the western end had, as part of its decoration (at the same level as, and on both sides of, the lintel) two human figures in molded stucco, positioned horizontally, as if they were swimming and at the same time escaping the arms of a monster emerging from a small house. Unfortunately, both the graffiti and the stucco images have since been lost, particularly as a result of the damage caused by Hurricanes Opal and Roxanne in 1995. That year most of the eastern side of the upper chamber of the Palace-Temple collapsed. Eight years later, the construction was restored under the supervision of INAH’s Ramón Carrasco.

Several first-floor rooms of the Palace-Temple still preserve traces of painting inside. On the lower sloping surface of the vaulted roof there were apparently scenes painted in red and framed by thick blue bands. The two rear chambers have stone benches, indicating that they might have been used as the residence of the elite.

During the excavations of the northern side of the Palace-Temple and the adjacent building (west side; Structure 1A), various grinding stones and fragments were recovered. These utensils offer evidence of the daily preparation of foodstuffs, an activity that evidently took place near the spaces occupied by the rulers.


  • Benavides C., Antonio y Sara Novelo O, 2010, “Cuatro relieves de Tabasqueño, Campeche”, en Mexicon, vol. XXXII, Möckmühl, Verlag Anton Sauvering.
  • Maler, Teobert, 1997, Península Yucatán. Berlín, Gebr. Mann Verlag.
  • Sánchez López, Adriana y José Agustín Anaya, 2006, “Dzibilnocac y Tabasqueño: arqueología de la región Chenes”, en Laporte, Juan Pedro, Barbara Arroyo y H. Mejía (eds.), XIX Simposio de Investigaciones Arqueológicas en Guatemala, 2005, Guatemala, Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología.


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