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 Cancuén Gallery

Cancuén (Land of Serpents) is located in the Southern region of Sayaxché, Petén on La Pasión river, where it begins to be navigable, after crossing the Highlands in southern Petén, Guatemala.  It is also known as the Entrance to the Mayan World, due to its location, and The Lost City, because it was ignored by archeologist as a minor site since 1909, but the recent excavations uncovered a Magnificent Classic site. 

Cancuén is an important site due to its unique location and was occupied from 300 to 950 AD, reaching its maximum splendor during the late classic period Around 800 AD. The recent findings there, have been remarkable and range from fine pottery to jade workshops and beautiful carved images as Ball game Markers, and the largest and most impressive Mayan Palace discovered to date, build between 765 and 790 AD,  by  T'ah 'ak' Cha'an, the King  that made Cancuén the dominant city in Southern Petén.

Cancuén's Palace, artistic recreation

 This Palace, (More an "Acropolis", due to its various patios and buildings), is a massive 3 story high structure, with some 270,000 feet, (82,000  m2.) that has more than 170 rooms and 11 courtyards. In some areas the walls are up to 6 feet thick. (1.80 m.). The arches and vaults found in the numerous passageways are up to 20 feet high, (6 m.) giving this structure a complex labyrinth like shape. In the ball court were found 3 altars that shows T'ah 'ak' Cha'an   playing the ceremonial ball game so sacred to the Mayan culture, also in the same ball court was discovered an impressive carved panel, weighing around 100 pounds (45 kg) showing him presiding a ceremony in the city of Machaquilá, a nearby city located in the upper La Pasión River that was its second capitol and then turned against Cancuén, 1 century after its reign. Kan Maax his successor had a distinct fate, being massacred along with more than 30 nobles by an unknown enemy, in a war that ended as soon as it begun (see Maya Culture Collapse)

Arthur Demarest from Vanderbilt University, and Tomás Barrientos from Universidad del Valle de Guatemala along with Federico Fashen a Guatemalan epigraphist, sponsored also by The National Geographic Society, are the main investigators in this site. They have discovered a Jade workshop and more than 4,000 elaborated Jade pieces, and much more Jade debris, they think that this site distributed Jade to the Petén Lowlands and the rest of the northern Maya lowlands.

 Fashen believes that this city gain power by merging with Royal families from Dos Pilas, and other cities such as Aguateca,  aside its domain in the trading pne of the many Karst Hill near Cancuénof  Jade, Pyrite (for mirrors) and Obsidian (for tool and warfare blades). This make its inhabitants wealthy, the investigators think, because of the jade implants found in the teeth of artisans, usually found only in nobles in other cities, the site has been mapped by Demarest and his team and is more than 3 sq. miles. Deamarest explains the lack of Pyramids due to the fact that the Karst Hills surroundings the site resembles the "Witz" that the Maya recreate in other sites, also the Candelaria caves nearby represent Xibalbá, thus making it better than the man made features.  Sepalau Lagoons (One of four)

 Despite its protective walls, it was destroyed by the rulers of Machaquilá and Ceibal, located also in La Pasión River on the mid 9th century AD and then abandoned, when it was found around 1900 the site was classified as a minor site, until 20 years ago when major discovers begin and surely will continue, due to the work of the archeologist, to visit this site You can go from Cobán to Chisec in Alta Verapaz, and enjoy the Candelaria Caves as well as the Sepalau lagoons nearby, by a paved highway from Sayaxché ( 3hrs),  or by boat, also from Sayaxché, although is a very long river trip. 



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Last updated 28/01/2011 17:07:37 -0500
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