Maya Capital City

Ancient Maya City and Protected Tropical Forests of Calakmul, Campeche
February 24, 2017 – 03:17 pm
The Pile in the Usumacinta
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

Ancient Maya City and Protected Tropical Forests of Calakmul, Campeche, Mexico is a Renomination and Extension of the existing 3, 000 ha cultural World Heritage property, Ancient Maya City of Calakmul, Campeche. The property is located in the central/southern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula, in southern Mexico. The total area of the extended property is 331, 397 ha, surrounded by a buffer zone of 391, 788 ha; together they equal the area of the entire Calakmul Biosphere Reserve.

This property, while nowadays almost uninhabited and covered by tropical forest, is the heartland of the area in which, from the mid-first millennium B.C. to about A.D. 1000, the Maya civilization reached its climax, but where it also suffered the most dramatic downfall, resulting in an almost complete abandonment of formerly flourishing settlements. Since the area has, thereupon, remained virtually depopulated, it represents an exceptional testimony to a long-living civilization, offering possibilities for archaeological and ecological research and presentation of its results.

Being located at the core of the second largest expanse of tropical forests in America, only surpassed by the Amazon jungle in South America, the area represents a singular case of adaptation to, and management of, a natural environment that, at a first glance, seems little suited to the development of urban civilization. The colonization of the territory, the population growth and the evolution of complex, state-organized societies are attested in a wide variety of material remains. Apart from Calakmul, the largest archaeological site, where the Kaan, one of the most powerful Maya dynasties, had its seat during the Late Classic period, remains of dozens of other ancient settlements have been found in the area, including several major urban centers with huge architectural complexes and sculpted monuments. Along with settlement remains, the inter-site and intra-site roads (sacbés), defensive systems, quarries, water management features (such as reservoirs and artificially modified aguadas or water ponds), agricultural terraces and other land modifications related to productive systems and subsistence strategies are also constituent parts of the extremely rich and exceptionally well preserved ancient cultural landscape.

Excavations at Calakmul and Uxul, have revealed stucco friezes and mural paintings in some of the massive temple pyramids and palaces, as well as burials of kings and other members of nobility, containing a rich variety of body ornaments and other accompanying objects including elaborate jade masks, ear spools and polychrome pottery vessels. The hieroglyphic inscriptions on stelae, altars and building elements reveal important facts about the territorial organization and political history, and some epigraphic records provide information that has not been found anywhere else in the Maya Area.

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