Alfredo Barrera Vasquez’s Diccionario Maya defines the name as; "KA’KAB-IS-AX 10: (place name); ka’kab: village, the seat of population, high land and strong; is: Ipomoea batatas, Lam: sweet + ax: wart; name of the archaeological ruins located near Numk’ini (Nun k’ini, Campeche)."
The current name of the site is believed to be relatively modern, but its origin has resisted attempts to be traced.
Ka'Kabish is believed to have been initially occupied during the Maya Late Pre-Classic Period (ca. 400 BCE- 200 CE) with one temple securely dated to this time and a second tentatively dated to this period. Material recovered from the tops of some of the buildings suggest that the city was in use at least until end of the Classic Period (900 CE), while evidence from the residential zone surrounding the city indicates a thriving occupation as late as the end of the Early Post-Classic Period (1200 CE).
The site has only recently become the focus of intensive investigation. A mid-1990s study of the site core revealed a total of 27 monumental structures arranged around two plazas, a subsequent study increased the number of structures to 55: these include two major temples, a ball court with circular ball court marker, and several large platforms (or range buildings) that likely served as royal or high status elite residences and/or administrative structures.
Within several of these structures the looted remains of tombs belonging to high status, possibly royal individuals, were discovered. One of these tombs was found to have possessed painted glyphs. The style is part of a tradition of painted tombs first noted at Rio Azul in Northern Guatemala.
Ka’Kabish, unlike its more famous neighbour Lamanai, is little known. It was first visited by David M. Pendergast of the Royal Ontario Museum while he was working at the nearby site of Lamanai, although the lack of a reliable road made work at the site unfeasible at that time. What was noted at the time was the evidence of wholesale illicit excavations, in which virtually every structure has been looted.
The first archaeological work to be conducted at the site was the mapping and surveying of the site by a team from the Maya Research Program in 1995.
Full scale investigations began in 2005 under the direction of Dr. Helen R. Haines (TUARC, Trent University). Since its inception, the Ka'Kabish Archaeological Research Project has focused largely on mapping the site to gain an understanding of the extent of the site and the types of buildings present. Knowledge of the architectural arrangements provides significant clues as to the importance of the site and the role it might have played in the larger Maya political landscape.
- Haines, Helen R. 2008. "Causeway Terminus, Minor Centre, Elite Refuge, or Ritual Capital? Ka’Kabish, A New Puzzle on the Ancient Maya Landscape of North-Central Belize". In Research Reports in Belizean Archaeology Volume 5. Institute of Archaeology, NICH, Belize
- Barrera Vasquez, A. 1995. Diccionario Maya, 3rd edition. Mexico, DF: Editorial Porrua, S. A.
- "Ka'Kabish Archaeological Research Project - Field Project". Kakabish.org. Retrieved 2010-10-09.
- Adams, Richard E.W. 1999 Rio Azul: An Ancient Maya City. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.
- Pendergast, David M. 1991 "And the Loot Goes On: Winning Some Battles, But Not the War." Journal of Field Archaeology, vol. 18:89-95.
- Guderjan, Thomas H. 1996. "Kakabish: Mapping of a Maya Center". In Archaeological Research at Blue Creek, Belize. Progress Report of the Fourth (1995) Field Season, edited by T. H. Guderjan, W. D. Driver and H. R. Haines, pp. 117-120. Maya Research Program, St. Mary's University, San Antonio.