In the south of Mexican state of Campeche, only 35 kilometers from the border with Guatemala, there sits buried in the jungle an enormous and forgotten Mayan capital city Calakmul. It’s difficult to get to because of the thick surrounding jungle and only one dirt road leading through it to the ruins. But the hours of bouncing up and down along this road are well worth it because Calakmul is truly a magnificent archeological site and happens to be my personal favorite! The enormous stepped pyramid structures and the overall infrastructure of the city serve as one of the best examples of direct incorporation of Mayan cosmology into the ancient tradition’s architecture and urban planning. The core area of Calakmul is approximately 2 square kilometers, containing 1000 structures, most still in the process of being uncovered by archeologists. The city axis were predetermined by cardinal directions, while ritual temples, observatories and governmental buildings were constructed according to the Maya interpretation of star orbits. Large platforms and plazas were connected by causeways called ‘sacbe.’ Amazingly, the city’s water supply was collected with the help of an intricate system of canals and large fresh-water reservoirs, estimated to have supported from 50,000 to 100,000 people!
The name ‘Calakmul’ literally translates to mean ‘City of Two Adjacent Pyramids’ and during most of the Classic Period (250-900 CE) in the chronology of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica it was a warrior city and a major seat of power to the inhabitants of the era’s so-called Kingdom of the Snake. Calakmul’s population is estimated to have been 50,000 people and its dominions included areas as far away as 150 kilometers! Throughout the Classic Period, Calakmul maintained an intense rivalry with another major city of Tikal in today’s Guatemala, and the political relationship and maneuverings of these two cities attest to an ongoing struggle between two Maya superpowers. Wandering around the site, for the most part completely alone, you can almost hear the echoes of that forgotten world… Perhaps with the help of these images you’ll be able to hear them as well.