Mayan Archaeology > Quintana Roo > Quintana Roo

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The largest Mayan settlement in the lake region

The zone’s current residents, who speak Mayan, confirm that the place name refers to “Red Corn”, but its original meaning is unknown. Researcher Peter Harrison, who was the first to report the site, named it “Lázaro Cárdenas”, the same name as the common land in the lake region, located to the south of Quintana Roo.

The city of Chacchoben is of late Preclassic origin (200 B.C.), when small populations settled around the Ocho and Chacchoben Lagoons. It was in the early Classic period (300 – 600 A.D.) when the site reached its golden age and the main buildings were built. Building activity decreased around 700 A.D., culminating with its virtual abandonment, to be repopulated, although partially, during the late Postclassic period.

The Mayan city of Chacchoben, the biggest settlement found so far in the lake region, occupies an area of 70 hectares. There are several groups of different sized structures; the most interesting among them are the Great Basement, the Ways, and Group II, which includes the highest building in the settlement.

The Great Basement was probably the main stage for religious and public ceremonial activities. In one of the stairways that provide access to it, Monument 1 was built, which appears to have served as a calendar to mark dates associated with equinoxes and solstices, probably to indicate the beginning of agricultural periods.

The Ways Group was probably a residence for the leading group. Inside it you can see low masonry platforms, which may have supported rooms with perishable materials.

Group II has not been excavated, but due to the magnitude of its buildings, and its distribution pattern, it is very likely that its function was for administrative and habitation activities.

Two stelae have been recovered with hieroglyphic inscriptions that show practically illegible texts, so it can only be assumed that Chacchoben was a main site linked to a regional capital within the Petén area, judging by the buildings’ architectural style.

Chacchoben is important due to its flora and fauna, which are an added appeal to the archaeological factor. Toucans and songbirds are present, as well as white cedars, mahogany, fig trees, pepper trees, zapote, ramones, chacas and corozo.

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How to arrive

The core of the settlement is located 85 kilometers from the city of Chetumal and just 3 kilometers from the town of Lázaro Cárdenas. The main ways to get there is Federal Highway 307 Chetumal – Escárcega and Federal Highway 293 Chetumal – Mérida (short cut). The monumental area of the settlement is next to the highway and is easily accessed.


Map and address

The main roads leading to this site are federal highways 307 Chetumal-Escárcega, and 293 Chetumal-Mérida (short cut). The archaeological zone is 85 kilometers from the city of Chetumal, and 3 kilometers from the town of Lazaro Cardenas.