• INAH / Fernando Cortés
    INAH / Fernando Cortés
Chakanbakán
In the middle of the savanna
A large and prosperous Maya city inhabited from 300 BC, with imposing plazas and monuments, one of which displays stucco facade masks of a god in the shape of a jaguar, plus some surprising sculptures reminiscent of the Olmecs.
About the site
The Mayan city of Chakanbakan is located in the lower Peten lakes area, in the region characterized by the Río Bec architectural style. This pre-Hispanic settlement belonged to a series of cities in the lower Peten with common characteristics. The surrounding area was rich in natural resources, enabling the inhabitants to build a protected city and to develop its culture in comfort. During the Late Preclassic Chakanbakan appears to have exercised social, political and economic control of the region.

The importance of the city grew to the extent that it managed to survive and experience a resurgence during the Classic period, when the dimensions of the traditional structures of the period were added to. Its dominant role over a small territory and the presence of raw materials allowed it to become an important producer and exporter of flint tools and other goods. Nevertheless it failed to retain its independence, since the region’s social, political and economic power was focused relatively nearby in the city of Calakmul. Even so it created trading links outside its region with cultures at the heart of the Central Highlands. Despite the importance it acquired, the effects of the Mayan collapse inexorably led it to the same fate, and the city was inexplicably abandoned.

During the Postclassic it continued to attract settlers from the region and the small temple on the top of the pyramid, known as a "nohochbalam," continued as a site of rituals where offerings were left to the deities. It had already been abandoned by the arrival of the European conquistadors and never recovered, even in the following centuries when the "cehaches," or indigenous people who remained free from the control of the conquistadors, dominated the region.

The houses were constructed from bahareque (sticks with a mud covering) and thatched with guano palm, and they must have been clustered close to the civic-religious center where the largest buildings stood. The construction of various structures began in the civic-religious center when the Late Preclassic was in full swing from 50 BC to 300 AD. The first pyramidal temple was built and subsequently renovated more than once in the same period and the following one. In one of these constructions the priests ordered 14 sculptures to be made representing the jaguar on both sides of a flight of steps on the facade of the sections. The facial features of these enormous feline stucco masks are still reminiscent of certain traits of the Olmecs, ancestors of the Maya.

During the Proto-Classic (50 BC - 250 AD) there was a significant increase in population density and at the same time in city planning. Although it was fully determined in the previous period, the new buildings began to mark out the future of an important medium-sized city. By that time, the culture had reached its apogee. The settlement appears to have achieved its maximum size and peak of development in the Early Classic (250 - 600 AD), when the principal constructions were modified and new ones were built. The Acropolis was built in various sections.

The population lived from farming, hunting, to a small extent fishing, and from trade. The type of social, political and economic organization was a useful means of advancement for the city and the region, and also helped to maintain links with other regional and distant external cities.

The Mayan city of Chakanbakan was built in a strategic location which made it easy to repel any external attacks by land or water. The features of the terrain are exceptional, the layout of the central sector, which was built on the higher ground, and the erection of extraordinarily large structures enabled the populace to remain safe from flooding and hurricanes.
300 a.C. - 1546

Preclásico Tardío a Posclásico Tardío
300 a.C. - 250

Clásico

Did you know...
  • The inhabitants of Chakanbakan transformed nature for their benefit. The abundance of local resources enabled extraordinary cultural development, turning this Mayan city into an important producer and exporter of working tools and other products.
  • The civic-religious center was the site of the city’s most important structures.
  • Almost entirely surrounded by the Om lake, it covers an area of approximately 270 acres on a raised peninsula.
  • The jaguar was a sacred animal, worshipped by many Mesoamerican peoples.
  • The great stucco masks bear helments with sloped bars on both sides of the cheeks, making them reminiscent of the colossal Olmec heads.
Practical information
Temporarily closed
Monday to Sunday from 8:00 to 17:00 hrs

Free entry


  • Extra fee for video cameras
Se localiza a 90 km de Chetumal.

From the city of Chetumal, take the Chetumal-Escárcega federal highway. At km 81 take the exit for Caobas and the entrance to the site is 5 km further on.

Services
  • +52 (983) 837 0796
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Directory
Enlace
Fernando Cortés de Brasdefer
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
+52 (983) 837 2411 y 837 2411, ext. 318015
1787
233_A_000
233_A_chakanbakan_fernando_cortes_1
INAH / Fernando Cortés
Sureste
Muy grande y próspera ciudad maya, poblada desde el 300 a.C., con imponentes plazas y monumentos, alguno de los cuales ostenta mascarones de dioses en forma de jaguar y esculturas de sorprendente reminiscencia olmeca.
A large and prosperous Maya city inhabited from 300 BC, with imposing plazas and monuments, one of which displays stucco facade masks of a god in the shape of a jaguar, plus some surprising sculptures reminiscent of the Olmecs.
Rodeado de sabana
In the middle of the savanna

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