Home Headlines The archaeological site of Ichkabal will be open to the public in Quintana Roo

The archaeological site of Ichkabal will be open to the public in Quintana Roo

by Yucatan Times
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The central part of the archaeological zone of Ichkabal will be opened to the public in May 2024, after specialists explore the site and prepare it for visitors.

The central part of the archaeological zone of Ichkabal (translated as place between lowlands), in Quintana Roo, will be opened to the public in May 2024, after INAH archaeologists explore and study the six main buildings of the site “to expose the monumental of this archaeological space“, informed to Excélsior Margarito Molina, head of the INAH Quintana Roo Center.

The site is located 30 kilometers from Bacalar lagoon and so far has only been explored three times by researchers such as Enrique Nalda and Sandra Balanzario, who have suggested that this site would be the origin of the Kaanu’l dynasty (the place of snakes).

In Quintana Roo there are 454 registered archaeological sites, Molina pointed out (such as Tulum, Chakanbakán, Dzibanché and Cobá, among others), “but we only have 13 open to the public, although Ichkabal was located by archaeologists Javier López and Luz Campaña, in 1995, but it is still a site closed to the public“.

At the moment, its only access is a jungle and dirt road that lacks infrastructure (toilets, ticket office, trails, archaeologists’ camp and legal certainty of the land), for which INAH is preparing a plan for the acquisition of ejido lands, given that the polygonal area reaches 108 hectares.

“The site is very important because of its monumentality, since its protection polygon is wide and includes small settlements known as Las Moras, El Puerco and Las Higueras,” Molina explained.

However, “the central zone (formerly known as Lagunita), has monumental buildings up to 46 meters high and, according to archaeologists, they date from the Terminal Preclassic and others are from the Early Classic, that is, from 50 to 58 B.C. and from 250 to 600 A.D.“, he pointed out.

Besides, these pre-Hispanic buildings have a particular architectural style called petenero, Molina added, that is, the Petén style from the northern part of Guatemala and the southern part of Campeche and Quintana Roo.

So the work will concentrate on this main group, which is composed of a plaza with eight structures, one of them very elongated, which in the upper part has five small temples, and the rest are large buildings that could have been ceremonial or administrative spaces.

What phase of the project are they in, Molina was asked. “It is not the first intervention to be done, but we are about to start strongly the archaeological research with the Program for the Improvement of Archaeological Zones (Promeza) to work intensively for 17 months and show the monuments to the public in April or May 2024.”

How to locate the dimension of the site? The Mayan settlements you know such as Uxmal, Chichen Itza, Tikal, Calakmul and Palenque were small city states that had their own rulers. Evidently, among these they shared the same culture, language, beliefs and rituals, which were common to all the peninsular Maya, even though they were independent states.

“Surely so was Ichkabal, which had its hierarchy, its priestly class, its warriors, its artisans and farmers who lived in peripheral buildings, in constructions of perennial structure, of thatched roof, of guano, of palm, which almost disappeared,” he described.

Although the exact dimension of the settlement will be known at the conclusion of the investigation.

“And from that, an estimate will be made of how much population inhabited there, although it surely reached 100,000 inhabitants, since it was a very important site,” he added.

What materials have you located in your explorations? “Ceramics (tepalcates) have been rescued and six monumental masks have been located at the site, four in one building and two in another, but some were completely deteriorated, with the stucco detached. “For now they are covered and no burial has been located either, but what there is evidence of is that the buildings were covered with stucco and surely in their best moment they were colored”.

Finally, he commented that so far no evidence of writing has been found at the site, “but we will know that with the field work, when we find some stelae, because generally some sites had stelae with information“.


The site is located 30 kilometers from the Bacalar lagoon.
It has been investigated three times by researchers such as Sandra Balanzario.
In 2017 a survey was conducted with a LIDAR scanner to review its dimensions.
For 17 months, INAH will explore the site and carry out infrastructure works for public visitation.

The Maya and their connection

Ichkabal had a connection with the Mayan city of Dzibanché, through a sacbé (white road), and although the temporality of both sites is different, this does not mean that the inhabitants did not coexist, commented Margarito Molina.

“Surely, this site had economic and political relations with others in northern Belize, the Guatemalan Petén, or with Calakmul, in Campeche, or Chakanbakán, in Quintana Roo,” he said, and it is known that Chakanbakán and Ichkabal developed at the same time.

“Yes there is a temporality and a chronology, but right now it would be speculating to talk about how their rulers were called, as they already have in other sites. Here we still do not have that epigraphic information that would allow us to talk about the history”.

For example, Sandra Balanzario found that in Dzibanché and Kinichná the Kaanu’l dynasty ruled, which today is a very popular surname among the inhabitants of Yucatán.

“There is also talk of a Kaanu’l dynasty in Dzibanché and surely in Ichkabal there were also rulers with a lineage, but there is still no complete information at this site,” he concluded. Information Excelsior.com.mx

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