views updated


Topoxté, a Late Postclassic (1250–1500 ce) ceremonial center located on an island of the same name in the southwestern part of Lake Yaxha, in the northeastern Petén, Guatemala. It is the most important site of a cluster of three contemporaneous island occupations that constitute a large and complex Late Postclassic Maya settlement: adjacent islands are Paxté, with an elite residential and ceremonial settlement, and the larger Cante, with over 100 primarily residential structures.

Topoxté, the eastern and largest island, has elite ceremonial architecture and ceramics. Its temple assemblage—a tall masonry temple, a perpendicular open hall, and two shrines within the plaza that are aligned with the main axis of the temple—stands on the highest point of the island. There are 100 house platforms on the island. The most notable ceramics are effigy censers, ritual pottery, and a red-on-cream decorated type.

This defensive island grouping is part of a network of occupations in the lacustrine environments of the central Petén prior to the Spanish conquest. The architectural data of Topoxté show striking similarities to a center site, Mayapán, in the Yucatán of Mexico; and ceramic censers are similar to contemporaneous pottery from the Yucatán. However, the archaeological culture of the site is also related to the elite culture of regional Petén centers. Topoxté and its neighboring islands form one of several defensive settlements in the lake region of the Petén, suggesting that there were competitive sociopolitical groups in the area prior to the Spanish conquest.

See alsoMaya, The; Mesoamerica.


William Rotch Bullard, Jr., "Topoxté, a Postclassic Maya Site in Petén, Guatemala," in Monographs and Papers in Maya Archaeology, edited by William Rotch Bullard, Jr., Papers of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, vol. 61 (1970).

Jay K. Johnson, "Postclassic Maya Site Structure at Topoxté, El Petén, Guatemala," in The Lowland Maya Postclassic, edited by Arlen F. Chase and Prudence M. Rice (1985), pp. 151-165.

Prudence M. Rice and Don S. Rice, "Topoxté, Manache, and the Central Petén Postclassic," in The Lowland Maya Postclassic, edited by Arlen F. Chase and Prudence M. Rice (1985), pp. 166-183.

Additional Bibliography

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

Wurster, Wolfgang W., ed. El sitio Maya de Topoxté: Investigaciones en una isla del Lago Yaxhá, Petén, Guatemala. Mainz am Rhein: P. von Zabern: KAVA, 2000.

                                  Eugenia F. Robinson