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Dzibilchaltún, an important and long-occupied Maya archaeological zone and site located 10 miles north of Mérida, Yucatán. Dzibilchaltún and nearby sites such as Komchen were populated as early as 800 bce The earliest occupants of northern Yucatán lived in small farming villages, and by around 500 bce there is good evidence for formally arranged, public buildings located near town centers. During the Late Formative period (c. 300 bce–250 ce) the people of the Dzibilchaltún region were increasingly engaged in long-distance trade, and the production of salt may have provided them with a valuable resource for that trade. Ceramic and architectural similarities with Late Formative sites on the east coast of Yucatán (e.g., Cuello and Cerros) suggest maritime contacts.

During the period between 250 and 700, Dzibilchaltún and the surrounding area were sparsely populated for reasons that remain poorly understood. By 700, however, the site of Dzibilchaltún experienced rapid growth, becoming one of the largest centers in the Yucatán peninsula. An area covering 7.6 square miles with over 8,000 structures was occupied between 700 and 1000; population may have reached 25,000 or more at this time. Early in this period there are architectural similarities with Early Classic sites in the southern lowland (e.g., Uaxactun) because Dzibilchaltún architects revived an earlier style. There are also similarities with contemporary western Maya sites like Palenque. By around 830, the Puuc architectural style came to dominate Dzibilchaltún, and structures had veneer facings with geometric mosaics and three-dimensional masks.

By around 1000, Dzibilchaltún had lost its dominant position in the area and there was strong influence from Chichén Itzá to the east. The resident population of Dzibilchaltún declined dramatically, and the site appears to have become a ceremonial center in the Late Postclassic period (c. 1200–1540).

Today, many ruins of Dzibilchaltún have been rebuilt or restored, and the site is visited regularly by tourists year-round due to its close proximity to the urban center of Mérida. Tourism is especially busy for the Spring and Fall equinox; visitors flock to witness the sun align and shine directly through the doorways of the Temple of the Seven Dolls for the equinox only. Also at Dzibilchaltún one can visit the highly regarded Museo de Pueblo Maya.

See alsoArchaeology; Maya, The.


E. Wyllys Andrews IV and E. Wyllys Andrews V, Excavations at Dzibilchaltún, Yucatán, México (1980).

E. Wyllys Andrews V, "Dzibilchaltún," in Handbook of Middle American Indians, suppl. 1, Archaeology (1981), pp. 313-341.

Additional Bibliography

Jennifer T. Taschek, The Artifacts of Dzibilchaltún, Yucatán, Mexico: Shell, Polished Stone, Bone, Wood, and Ceramics (1994).

                                              Janine Gasco