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Calakmul is a large Maya ruin of the Classic period (514–990 ce), located in the central Petén in the state of Campeche, Mexico. Huge (over 1.2 miles in diameter), Calakmul has yet to be fully mapped. Most of its 113 stelae—a record for any Maya site—have been recovered. Seventynine of these stelae are sculptured and forty are plain. Most are large and flat—more or less in the Tikal style—but a few are unique in having a male figure on one side and a female on the other, as well as male and female figures facing each other on the same stelae—perhaps representing a royal marriage or a period of joint rule. Recently attempts have been made to decipher some of these stelae, and there are indications of long periods of rule by local dynasties. In fact, Calakmulmay have been one of the four initial empires of the Maya lowlands starting as early as 731 ce, for the city has its own distinctive emblem glyph. Although its pyramids lack the elaborate roof combs of Tikal, the architecture, city planning, and other artistic features of Calakmul show that it fell within the Tikal sphere of influence. There are also indications of conflict with Tikal.

A distinctive feature of Calakmul, unlike other Maya sites, is a limestone ledge sculpture, 21 feet long and 17 feet wide, showing a line of captive figures with their hands tied behind their backs and connected to a huge captive figure standing 9 feet tall. Future explorations were anticipated to reveal other distinctive features, and full deciphering of Calakmul's many stelae and sculptures may well write another unique history for the Maya region.

See alsoArchitecture: Architecture to 1900; Maya, The.


Joyce Marcus, The Inscriptions of Calakmul (1987).

Additional Bibliography

Folan, William J. Las ruinas de Calakmul, Campeche, México: Un lugar central y su paisaje cultural. Campeche, Mexico: Universidad Autónoma de Campeche, Centro de Investigaciones Históricas y Sociales, 2001.

Martin, Simon and Nikolai Grube. Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens: Deciphering the Dynasties of the Ancient Maya. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2000.

                                Richard S. MacNeish