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Cobá, an ancient Maya metropolis in central Quintana Roo, Mexico, less than 12 miles from the eastern coast of the Yucatán peninsula. During the eighth century an estimated forty thousand people lived at the site, making it one of the largest urban centers anywhere in Mesoamerica at that time. Cobá, an important trade link between the coast and inland cities, also figures prominently in the traditional Maya histories of the late pre-Hispanic period, with legendary ties to many of the city-states and royal lineages that dominated Yucatán at the time of contact with the Spanish. At the height of its power, this lowland city probably dominated much of the northeastern Yucatán peninsula and competed with other regional centers at Tizimín, Izamal, Uxmal, and Edzna.

Cobá is probably best known for its radiating sacbeob, wide causeways that connected the city's monumental core to residential neighborhoods, nearby towns, and more-distant centers up to 60 miles away. At the core of the city were four major pyramid and palace complexes linked by sacbeob and dispersed around four large, shallow lakes. Minor temples, the residences of lesser nobility, and countless walled commoners' compounds packed the surrounding urban sprawl, which covered an additional 28 square miles around the core.

Researchers believe that from 600 to 800 ce, Cobá was a diversified city of residential wards and craft guilds at the center of a powerful regional state. By the time the great center of Chichén Itzá (1000–1200 ce) had risen a little more than 60 miles to the east, Cobá had declined to a less important shrine center where the magnificent stelae (with more than thirty carved stone markers depicting male and female rulers holding ceremonial bars) and temples of an earlier age were probably revered and maintained as powerful symbols of the postclassic nobility's links to a more glorious past.

See alsoMaya, The .


William J. Folan, Ellen R. Kintz, and Laraine A. Fletcher, Cobá: A Classic Maya Metropolis (1983).

Linda Manzanilla, Cobá, Quintana Roo: Análisis de dos unidades habitacionales mayas (1987).

Additional Bibliography

Evans, Susan Toby. Ancient Mexico & Central America: Archaeology and Culture History. London: Thames & Hudson, 2004.

Kintz, Ellen R. Life under the Tropical Canopy: Tradition and Change among the Yucatec Maya. Fort Worth, TX: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1990.

Paxton, Merideth. The Cosmos of the Yucatec Maya: Cycles and Steps from the Madrid Codex. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2001.

Robles C., Fernando. La secuencia cerámica de la región de Cobá, Quintana Roo. México, D.F.: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, 1990.

                                       Thomas W. Killion