Campeche Logo Archaeological Reconnaissance in Southeastern Campeche, Mexico


This interactive website presents the distribution of archaeological sites in the southeastern part of the Mexican federal state of Campeche, and the corresponding illustrative material. The information derives from seven field seasons of archaeological reconnaissance, accomplished from 1996 to 2007 and directed by Ivan Šprajc. While the field data and interpretations resulting from the first six seasons are exhaustively presented in a monograph (Šprajc 2008), and those derived from the 2007 season in a separate report (Šprajc et al. 2009), the material shown here is intended to be used as a complementary source of information.

The area of our surveys is located south of Mexican federal highway no. 186, which crosses the Yucatan peninsula in the east-west direction, communicating the cities of Chetumal and Escárcega. In a sparsely populated strip of land, around 30 km wide and extending south of the modern town of Xpujil along the border between Mexico and Belize, colonization started about four decades ago, and the land is alloted mostly to ejidos (rural communities enjoying usufruct rights to the land held in common); the remaining territory belongs to the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, declared as a protected area in 1989 and nowadays without permanent population.

Before our surveys started, in 1996, some of the most extensive blanks on the archaeological map of the Maya area were located precisely in these central parts of the Yucatan peninsula. While the Río Bec region, defined by its typical architectural style, was relatively well known, very few archaeological data were available for the area lying south and southwest of the former and extending between the Río Candelaria and the border between Mexico and Belize (cf. Ruz 1945: 11). Until the intensive research in the area of Calakmul began, in the early 1980s (cf. Folan 1994; Folan et al. 1995; Morales 1987; Carrasco 2000), Ruppert and Denison's monumental work (1943), resulting from four expeditions accomplished by the Carnegie Institution of Washington in 1932, 1933, 1934 and 1938, was practically the only source of information on some archaeological sites in this region, but the sites they reported were – according to Ruppert himself (Ruppert and Denison 1943: 1) – only a few of the largest and best preserved ones. The information on some additional sites reported afterwards (Ruz 1945; Müller 1959; 1960) is so scanty that they cannot even be identified in the field. Indeed, only few decades ago, Adams (1981: 216) affirmed that the sites in the area, except for El Palmar (Thompson 1936), “were all found by Ruppert and his Carnegie Institution surveys of the 1930s. Although some of the most impressive Maya sites lie here, notably Calakmul, no serious work has since been done in the zone.”

As an attempt to improve the situation, the reconnaissance works started in 1996 in the southeastern extreme of the state of Campeche, and continued in 1998, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2007. So far we have recorded over 80 previously unknown archaeological sites; we have also managed to rediscover most of the sites that had been reported by Ruppert and Denison (1943), but whose location was later forgotten. The surveys accomplished so far in southeastern Campeche have revealed not only a great density of archaeological vestiges, comparable to the one observed in other parts of Maya Lowlands, but also the presence of major centers with extensive architectural complexes, sculpted monuments and hieroglyphic inscriptions. Aside from the monograph (Šprajc 2008), presenting exhaustively the results of the first six field seasons, those of particular seasons have been summarized in a number of preliminary reports (Šprajc 1998a; 1998b; 2001a; 2001b; 2002; 2003a; 2003b; 2002-2004; 2004; 2006; 2007; Šprajc et al. 1996; 1997a; 1997b; 2005; 2009; Šprajc and Juárez 2003; Šprajc and Suárez 1998a; 1998b; 2003; Šprajc and Grube 2005; Grube 2005; Juárez et al. 2007)

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  Sponsor: Committee for Research and Exploration, National Geographic Society, U.S.A.   Sponsor: Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, U.S.A.   Sponsor: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico   Sponsor: Universidad Autónoma de Campeche, Mexico   Sponsor: Scientific Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Slovenia   Sponsor: Ars longa, Travel Agency, Slovenia   Villas, Austria   Rio Bec Dreams, Mexico   Adria Kombi, Slovenia   © 2008 -, ZRC SAZU