Archeological evidence suggests that after the collapse of the Maya civilization, Chacchoben, as well as many other sites in the region was still used as a ceremonial center and that a number of rituals took place at the abandoned temples. After the arrival of the Spaniards in the XV century and the eventual conquest of what today is Mexico and Central America, there were major changes in the Maya population, their religion and in general in the way how they lived.
Incense burner recovered from Chacchoben's Gran Basamento, it has the form of a crocodile with Itzamna God emerging from its open mouth
By 1847 the landscape had changed dramatically and there was unrest among the Maya population, that unrest ignited one last conflict, "the Caste's War", when the Maya Cruz'ob, went to war against the Mexican Federation for the control of the Yucatan Peninsula.
During the 50 years of the Caste's War, a number of atrocities were committed as entire towns were burned down to ashes forcing the Maya families to abandon their homes and to escape from the conflict areas into the territory of Brittish Honduras (former Brittish Colony, today Belize) and into Guatemala. It's during these years of conflict that the rituals and visits to Chacchoben stopped until the site was forsaken and become one of the many Maya sites lost under the jungle.
Chacchoben's new era
Recent history of Chacchoben started in 1942 when Serviliano Cohuo, a Maya Yucatec man looking for the perfect land to establish his farm accidentally came across the temples in ruins of Chacchoben and decided to settle down there. Over the years Serviliano Cohuo build his home at the base of "Gran Basamento", got married and had children who had Chacchoben's temples in ruins as their playground.
Recent investigations at Chacchoben
In 1972 the Cohuo family hosted Dr. Peter Harrison, an American Archeologist leading a project sponsored by Tulane University and the Royal Ontario Museum. Dr. Harrison was the first professional Archeologist who visited Chacchoben, he conducted the first professional exploration, made the first maps of the site and reported Chacchoben ruins to the Mexican Government.
In 1974 Quintana Roo was declared a new Mexican State and the new government started regulating the possesion of the land. In 1978, Serviliano Cohuo, was designated honorary guard of Chacchoben and was granted his right over his beloved farm, where he lived for the rest of his days. Serviliano Cohuo passed away in 1991, unfortunately, he didn't fulfilled his dream of seeing the temples in his backyard restored.
In June 1994, a new chapter in the history of Chacchoben was opened as the restoration project under the auspices of the INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History) started. During the years that followed Mexican Archeologist Juan Rique conducted the excavation and restoration of the complexes identified as Group I-A and Group I-B, finally after more or less 1000 years, Chacchoben had started to reveal its secrets.
In October 2002, INAH and the people from Chacchoben reached an agreement. The land was expropriated from the Cohuo family, and the restored complexes were officially opened to the public.
Chacchoben's Las Vias jungle trail.
Although most of the land surrounding the site was used for farming, Serviliano Cohuo always kept the jungle covering the different complexes untouched. Today the ruins site rests within a green island of trees covered with Spanish moss, palm trees and different varieties of orchids among other plants, this peculiar landscape gives Chacchoben a special touch that enhances the magnificence of the different temples, and invites you to explore and feel the harmony of nature and history.
Nature, archeology and over 3000 years of Maya history
A few facts about Chacchoben
Chacchoben's ceremonial center covers an area of nearly 6 square kilometers. It's located in an area known as the "Region of the Lakes" due to the number of lagoons and areas with low terrains that are permanently humid or flooded during the rainy season.
Roots that reach back 3000 years of Maya history
The earliest human settlements in the Chacchoben region have been dated at around 1000BC. Studies made during the excavations suggest that the site was abandoned and reoccupied a few times, being finally abandoned at around 1000AD. Most structures that have been restored were modified several times during the occupation period with the most remarkable modifications dated at around 300-360AD.
Chacchoben, the place of red maize
The ruins site of Chacchoben takes its name from the village located a few miles away that has the same name. The most accepted translation of the name Chacchoben is "Place of Red Maize". To this day no inscriptions referring to the original name of the site have been found, therefore the site is officially called Chacchoben, the place of the red corn.