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Tomb's entrance
See the Conference about Waka's Tombs by Dr. Héctor Escobedo

Formerly known as El Perú, Waka´ its original name, meaning "Place above the Water", is a Late Pre Classic and Classic site, located in the North Western Petén. The site, composed of 672 monumental structures and untold numbers of small house structures, sits atop an escarpment six kilometres north of the San Pedro Mártir River, in Laguna Del Tigre National Park. (The Park is Central America's largest nature preserve), The site was inhabited as early as 500 BC, but reached its peak between AD 400 and AD 800. At its height, the city may have been an economically and strategically important center, and home to tens of thousands of people. Over a period of 700 years, 22 kings ruled at Waka’, due to its key location at the river, this city had control over the commerce traffic including cacao and cotton textiles. 20 Km. to the south, is located the Hix Witz Polity, now known to be a kingdom with several cities, and to the north is "Site Q" or La Corona, a site intimately linked with Waka'. An Hiatus between 554 and 657 AD, characterized by the lack of constructions and texts, has been documented, coinciding with the Tikal Hiatus, implying that Waka' was strongly associated to Tikal before this dates.  The more than 40 carved monuments, or stelas, at the site chronicle the activities of the site’s rulers, including their rise to power, their conquests in war and their deaths. The second Hiatus, was due to its conquest by Tikal, due to its alliance with Calakmul.

Stela 15, the oldest in Waka'By 300 AD,  Waka' was a trading power, it occupied a strategic location on the San Pedro River, which flowed westward from the heart of the Petén. Its market was filled with Maya foodstuffs such as maize, beans, chillies, and avocados, along with chicle harvested from sapodilla trees to make glue, and latex from rubber trees to make balls for ceremonial games. Exotic goods found their way to Waka' as well. Jade for sculpture and jewellery, obsidian for weapons and pyrite for mirrors, also quetzal feathers for costumes came from the highlands to the south.

Waka´ was the scene of an important event related to Teotihuacán, on January 382 AD known among Archaeologist as *The Entrance* where Teotihuacán troops, leaded by Siyaj K’ahk’, that was received by Waka's King K’inich B’alam, pretended to conquer Uaxactún and Tikal, as narrated in the Stela 15, dedicated in 415.  Allied with Tikal for a long time, Waka´ made and alliance, by a royal wedding, with the cities of  Calakmul and Dos Pilas, Tikal´s biggest rivals; this betrayal leads to its partial destruction by the War Lords of Tikal. Archaeologists now think that Waka' was a kingdom, due to its unique ceramic work, and its relevance in the Late Classic.

  An important royal tomb has been recently found ( May 2006), it contains Jade offerings, shells, ceramics, including 12 ballplayers figurines, royal symbols as a carved Huunal (Jade Headdress) and paws of jaguar skin  and stones from the Eastern Highlands and Pacific Lowlands (sing of wealth), dating back to 200 to 400 AD. The tomb was found inside an 18 meter pyramid located in the centre of the Waka-Perú archaeological site associated to two previously uncovered Queens tombs. The funerary chamber is 5.1 meters long by 1.5 meters wide. Ecologist speculate that is the Tomb of Waka' first ruler, Tzih Bahlam (Emergent Jaguar). The handsome pottery, ranked "with the best we have from the Early Classic period of Maya civilization" says Southern Methodist University’s David Freidel, the site’s lead archaeologist, and demonstrates that Waka´ was a mainstream player in the civilization of that time, the body was over a throne with jade jewels and a shrine burned inside the Pyramid.

Fine pottery from Royal tomb
Photography: Sarah Sage © Waka Research Foundation

 At the main Palace complex of the site, where at one time the rulers of Waka’ presided over the sprawling ancient city. The palace served as a place of residence, politics, trade and governance, and as well as the commoners houses, its floors served as graves. The tomb 8 a Late Classic burial date, estimated between AD 650 and AD 750, contained more than 2,400 artifacts, including fine Ceramics Jade and Obsidian Jewels, and the remains of a Late Classic Queen, aged, according to her pelvic bones,  between 30 to 40,  her skull and long bones were removed, maybe as an act of respect and not profanation, years later, we know she was a queen, due to a  Huunal, that may have once been a part of this headdress, exclusive of Maya Queens, also in this tomb was found a piece made of  mosaic, named  Kohaw, a war helmet wear only by Kings and Kaloomte's, or ‘supreme warlords’, there are not text to tell us her name, but most certainly she witnessed the destruction of her Kingdom. The individual was interred in a vaulted burial chamber that was built inside the shell of an existing building atop the palace acropolis.  A preliminary analysis of the 23 complete vessels found in the chamber suggests a Late Classic burial date, estimated between AD 650 and AD 750. The interment, which contained artefacts of greenstone, shell and obsidian, provides significant information about the importance of this person during her life. The Queen buried in the chamber also had stingray spines placed on her body in the pelvic region. Stingray spines are bloodletting implements that are depicted being used to let blood from the genitalia of Maya kings. That this female ruler had these implements supports the idea that in ancient Maya culture, gender roles were sometimes blended.

We know  that the site was called Waka' from a glyphic text ascribed to king K'inich Balam, a name that can be translated as Sun Faced Jaguar. K'inich Balam, who ruled from the late seventh to the early eighth centuries, was married to a powerful royal princess from Calakmul, capital of the royal dynasty of Kan, the snake people. The marriage of the princess, K’ab’el or  "Lady T'abi", forged a military alliance, (and their destiny), between the Calakmul lord, Yuknom Cheen the Great, and K'inich Balam. She was called an Ix Kaloomté or "war lady," the highest military title in ancientQueen's Tomb Maya royal texts (Kaloomté). Waka' was strategic to the king of Calakmul because Yuknom Cheen was trying to gather many Maya kingdoms into a larger state. After Yuknom Cheen dead, his successor--probably the brother of Lady T'abi--was defeated and likely sacrificed by the king of Tikal around A.D. 732. A decade later, the successor of K'inich Balam met a similar fate at the hands of the Tikal king, Hasaw Chan Káwill. The last ruler mentioned in a text (Stela 32), is another women, Lady Pak'al, in 771 AD, there is no mention of her husband, this date, coincide with the strong decline in Calakmul after its defeat at Tikal's hands. Texts commissioned by Y’ikin Chaan K’awiil, the victorious king of Tikal, narrate that B’ahlam Tzam, confronted him in a place named "Yax Ha Lak’in" or "Easter Green Water"

The site has 4 main plazas with some 700 structures and a very fine sculpture style, in a compact area of 1 sq Km.  It is also a greatRed macaws ecological site that shelters Jaguars, monkeys, Toucans, and the Red Guacamaya that nest there from February to June, 

To go there from Flores is a 75 Km road to Paso Caballos a small "Chiclero" community now committed to preservation, and trained as guides, both archaeological and ecological, from there is a 20 minutes ride by boat to Las Guacamayas Station, were you can find accommodations and information about Waka´ and its natural richness, then is a 25 min up San Pedro Mártir river  to Chakah' a small port site, and 5 Km hike to Waka´ in a fairly flat terrain, it is recommended to carry fresh water and comfortable clothing to deal with the hot and humid, but luscious natural environment.  



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Last updated 28/01/2011 17:07:34 -0500
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