First discovered by outsiders in 1931, by US botanist Cyrus Lundell, Calakmul (555-150-20-73; admission M$37, road maintenance fee M$40/car, local tax M$20 per person) means ‘Adjacent Mounds.’ Mayanists consider Calakmul to be a site of vital archaeological significance. The site bears comparison in size and historical significance to Tikal in Guatemala, its chief rival for hegemony over the southern lowlands during the Classic era.
From about AD 250 to 695, Calakmul was the leading city in a vast region known as the Kingdom of the Serpent’s Head. Its perpetual rival was Tikal, and its decline began with the power struggles and internal conflicts that followed the defeat by Tikal of Calakmul’s king Garra de Jaguar (Jaguar Paw).
As at Tikal, there are indications that construction occurred over a period of more than a millennium. Beneath Edificio VII, archaeologists discovered a burial crypt with some 2000 pieces of jade, and tombs continue to yield spectacular jade burial masks; many of these objects are on display in Campeche city’s Museo Arqueológico. Calakmul holds at least 120 carved stelae, though many are eroded.
So far, only a fraction of Calakmul’s 100-sq-km expanse has been cleared, and few of its 6500 buildings have been consolidated, let alone restored; however, exploration and restoration are ongoing.
Lying at the heart of the vast, untrammeled Reserva de la Biosfera Calakmul, the ruins are surrounded by rainforest, which is best viewed from the top of one of the several pyramids. There are over 250 bird species living in the reserve, and you are likely to see occellated turkeys, parrots and toucans. The menagerie of other wildlife protected by the reserve includes jaguars, spider monkeys, pumas, ocelots and white-lipped peccaries.
Last updated: Jul 22, 2009
Bags feeling light?
Coffee table looking bare?
Get your guidebooks, travel goods, even individual chapters, right here.