It is located in the southern section of the state of Quintana Roo, which physiographically, includes the Lakes Region. Its original name is unknown, and therefore Peter Harrison, who reported the site for the first time, named it after the ejido where it was discovered. As one of the oldest settlements by the Maya, its name alludes to red corn.
The core section of the settlement covers an area of approximately 173 acres, and the distribution includes groups of structures of different sizes. The most notable are the groups known as the Great Base, the Roads, and Group II, which includes the highest building in the settlement. The architectural groups are mainly of a civic and religious nature; this has been confirmed by the large quantity of late incense censers recovered in the upper section of the Great Base, which was crowned by two main temples.The Great Base must have served as the main ceremonial stage for religious and public affairs.
In one of the access staircases, Monument 1 was built. It appears to have served as a marker for calendar dates associated mainly with the equinoxes and solstices, which likely indicated the beginning of the planting seasons. The group of Roads may have served as the residence of the ruling class. It contains low stone platforms that may have supported residences built with perishable materials. Group II has not been explored, but based on the magnitude of its buildings and their distribution pattern, it is very probable that it served both administrative and residential purposes.Viewed as a group, the site may have formed a larger settlement under the hegemony of a large city within the southern lowlands, although this has not been confirmed to date.
History of the Site
It is very likely that the first inhabitants in the region established themselves during the Late Preclassic Period (200 BC), in small hamlets around perennial bodies of water, such as the Laguna del Ocho and the Laguna de Chacchoben; however, it was not until the Early Classic when the monumental development of the site occurred and the main public buildings were built. Nevertheless, the settlement was inhabited during subsequent periods identified through archaeological study. Major construction activity seems to have decreased around 700 AD, later culminating in its virtual abandonment. It was newly populated, albeit partially, during the Late Post-Classic period. This date matches the large quantity of effigy censers that have been recovered.
Unfortunately, the only two stele with hieroglyphic inscriptions that have been found to date have texts that are practically illegible. As a result, researchers theorize that Chacchoben was a major site linked to a regional capital from the Petén area, judging by the architectural style of its construction, which show corners tucked into the panels of the earliest buildings and surrounded by later construction with the typical public square arrangement, as an apron between the street and the slope. In addition, the materials recovered to date show clear similarities with those documented from sites from northern Belize, more than from sites in northern Yucatan.
So far, researchers have only explored the five buildings that rest upon the Great Base, the main building from the Roads complex, and the low platforms which flank one of themIt is important to mention that all of the buildings studied show different stages of construction, which may be only partially seen in the explored buildings, further evidence of the long occupation at the site.
Two construction stages are observed in the façades of the Great Base, repeating the same architectural pattern. The final stage shows three tiered bodies, which support the ceremonial buildings. The two small buildings that crown one of the access staircases served to restrict access to Temple 2 and to the sacred space that the surface of the Great Base represented as a whole. It is interesting to mention that one of the later constructions at the complex, and the best preserved, is the building known as the Terraced Temple. It was built on top of the steps of Temple 1, when the site was newly revitalized as a place of veneration for the patronal deities who, according to the beliefs of its inhabitants, allowed life and its vital cycles to continue. It probably served as the threshold where novices could establish contact between the sacred and the earthly, and may have also served as an astronomical indicator of important calendar dates, when Monument 1 was covered by new construction.
The main building at the Roads Complex was originally built with the pyramidal arrangement that characterized the temples; however, it was modified to build a vaulted enclosure whose outstanding characteristic is a central altar inside. The altar features a pictorial motif associated with tracking the passage of time and the cycles of the Sun and of Venus, thus recreating the concept of the four directions that were so important in Mayan thought.
Adjacent to this building are other major constructions that have not yet been explored. As a group, they form a small plaza with a central altar that is connected to the residential platforms that flank the roads.Its arrangement suggests a familial unit which may have served as private, single-family sanctuaries.The materials recovered there include ceramics for domestic use, milling instruments, spearheads, knives, obsidian blades and various objects such as whorls, net weights and stones worked with a cruciform motif that was also represented in the painting on the altar in the main building of the complex.
One of the outstanding characteristics of the settlement is the presence of monolithic, circular altars and stele. Of these, only one possesses hieroglyphic texts, but they are so eroded that they have become illegible.
Chacchoben is the largest settlement discovered to date in the Lakes Region. Archaeologists began to work the site only in 1994. Since then, they have uncovered and consolidated various important buildings that make up the nucleus of the pre-Hispanic city, which covers approximately 173 acres. While it contains architectural complexes of different ranges, the most notable are the Great Base, The Roads, and Group II, which includes the tallest building on the site.The buildings served a central civil and religious purpose, as confirmed by the enormous quantity of late censers recovered in the upper section of the main structure and in the two main temples that crown it. The Great Base must have served as the main ceremonial stage for religious and public affairs.
In one of the access staircases, Monument 1 was built. It appears to have served as a marker for calendar dates associated mainly with the equinoxes and solstices, which likely indicated the beginning of the planting seasons.The group of Roads may have served as the residence of the ruling class. It contains low stone platforms that may have supported residences built with perishable materials.Group II has not been explored, but based on the magnitude of its buildings and their distribution pattern, it is very likely that it served both administrative and residential purposes.
Archeological hypotheses suggest that Chacchoben may have belonged to a major settlement under the hegemony of an imposing city from the southern lowlands, which has not yet been identified.
The site is located 9 kilometers from the exit on Federal Highway No. 307 Chetumal-Cancun and on the left side of Federal Highway No. 297, known as the “shortcut” to Merida.