Posted by: Johan Normark | June 10, 2009

Ichkabal – the latest search for the origin and continuity of the Kaan kingdom

Despite what I said in my last post, here is a new post. I could not help to write something about the news from Ichkabal, an enormous site in southern Quintana Roo, Mexico, currently being investigated by INAH. It is located only ten km from the better known site of Dzibanche. As far as I remember, my colleague Alberto Flores, who has worked at Dzibanche, once told me that these sites are connected by causeways. Ichkabal has been known for a while but it is apparently only now that resources are directed to this place, which appears to be larger than Dzibanche. Ichkabal is one of the few sites with at least one pyramidal structure almost 50 m in height.

The interest in this site is considerable. The investigator, Enrique Nalda, believes it will be possible to trace the origins of the Kaan kingdom to Ichkabal. This was the most powerful of kingdoms during the Classic period. It was first detected at Calakmul but its origin was later believed to be found at Dzibanche. However, at Dzibanche the Kaan kingdom cannot be traced earlier than around AD 450. The earlier Early Classic and Late Formative history is not known (apparently the kingdom is assumed to have an older history). El Mirador, the largest known Maya site, has been suggested as the original site and it is fairly close to Calakmul. However, Nalda believes the origin is closer to Dzibanche, and Ichkabal appears to be the best candidate since it has massive Late Formative structures.

The site is also believed to reveal the nature of the early connections between the Maya lowlands and the Central Mexican metropolis of Teotihuacan.

Another interesting aspect of this area is that Dzibanche was intensively used until the Spanish conquest, and hence did not “collapse” in the 9th century. Nalda says that this “continuity surprises us; Ichkabal exploration may end the Maya Collapse myth, which points out that great ceremonial centers were abandoned by the end of Classic period, around 900 AD, remaining like that until European contact”. However, I would be surprised if there was no major decline in population density whatsoever. I hope I am wrong, since nothing would please me more than further evidence that contradicts the all too generalizing collapse models.

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