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Chactún (Maya : Red stone)[1] is the name of an archaeological site of the Mesoamerican Maya civilization in the state of Campeche, Mexico, north of the biosphere reserve of Calakmul,[2] a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[3] The site of approximately 54 acres is located in the lowlands of the Yucatán Peninsula, between the regions of Rio Bec and Chenes. There are some significant differences from some of the other nearby sites that have yet to be explained completely.[4]


A team of Mexican and foreign experts from the National Geographic Society and the National Institute of Anthropology and History, headed by Slovenian archaeologist Ivan Sprajc, discovered the site in 2013 [5] by aerial photographs and LIDAR[6] and named it Chactún, "Red Stone". The name was based on an inscription which translated to "K'inich B'ahlam affixed the Red Stone in AD 751. (The date was converted from the Mayan Calendar)[7] The project was financed by the National Geographic Society and Villas and Ars Longa, two private companies. It is one of 80 sites detected by the Southeast Campeche Archaeological Recognition Project, which launched in 1996.[8] Prior to this discovery by archaeologists, very little was known about this part of the region. Evidence of logging suggests locals were aware of the site.[9] This is because of the difficulty in accessing the area due to difficult terrain and overgrown vegetation. To reach the area, the team of archaeologists had to travel over two hours in four wheel drive vehicles, periodically stopping to cut back brush that had blocked the road. The initial trip took six weeks. Without the discovery with aerial photography, it is likely this site would have remained hidden for much longer. The project is continuing to survey the site to create a three dimensional map.[10]

Ancient Use[edit]

Chactún is believed to have been an ancient city that served as a government seat for a large area. Researchers from Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia or INAH dated the site to 600 to 900 AD.[11] The site contains three monument complexes,one to the west, and two to the east, one north and one south. The west complex is much larger, making up about half of the total area of the site. There are many pyramids throughout the site, with the tallest one reaching a height of 23 meters.[12] There is evidence of a large building that archaeologists believe may have been a palace. There are also plazas, ball courts and residential areas. There are many altars as well as sculptures with inscriptions.[13] There are also many stelae, tall rectangular monuments generally made of wood or stone, located at the site. Many have degraded, but one remains almost completely intact including the stucco which rarely survives in the jungle climate. Three others remain in relatively good condition, while the rest are mostly worn away.[14] Initial estimates indicate it was once home to between 30,000 and 40,000 people.[15]

There is also evidence that the site may have been inhabited by a different group after the collapse of the Maya. There are several monuments that were turned upside down as though the people living there did not understand their significance. However there is also some evidence that the upside down monuments were reused and worshiped. There were also ceramic offerings located around the monuments that were dated to the second inhabitants.[16] A significant amount of artifacts dating to these second inhabitants were also found in the ball court areas.[17]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Extensive Maya city discovered in Campeche
  2. ^ Important Mayan archaeological site discovered in Campeche, Mexico (French)
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