Cancuén is an archaeological site of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization, located in the Pasión subregion of the central Maya lowlands in the present-day Guatemalan Department of El Petén. The city is notable for having one of the largest palaces in the Maya world.

Ancient Cancuén

Cancuén was a major city during the Classic Period, reaching its peak during the Seventh Century A.D. The city was a major trade center, specializing in jade, pyrite and obsidian. Its strategic position on the Río Pasion helped it dominate trade in the region. Taj Chan Ahk, one of the city's most powerful rulers, built the city's palace in 770 A.D. The palace covered nearly 23,000 square meters and contained 200 rooms, making it the largest in the Maya area. The city had two ball court a large marketplace and a dock on La Pasion River. The city does not contain many large temples or burial sites; it is thought that the inhabitants of Cancuén worshipped and buried their dead in the mountains near the city. Several dozen bodies dressed in royal garments were discovered near the base of the central pyramid. Investigations have shown that the bodies, including the city's ruler at the time, Kan Maax, had been executed and dumped in a cistern [] . The massacre occurred around 800 A.D. [] , the time when the Mayan civilization collapsed, leading some scholars to believe that it was connected to the upheaval that accompanied the collapse of the Maya civilization.


The site was rediscovered in 1905 by Austrian explorer Teoberto Maler. No major temples or burial sites were reported in the initial investigations, leading archaeologists to believe it had been a minor or subsidiary site. Cancuén was largely ignored until 1967, when students from Harvard University uncovered the ruins of the largest Palace in the Maya world, with more than 200 rooms and 12 Patios, its walls are up to 1.80 mt thick, it has more than 200,000 square foot. Further investigations showed that the size of the structure and the entire site had previously been underestimated, at it was now thought to cover at least 3 square miles. Subsequent archaeological expeditions were launched following the discovery of the palace, including teams from Vanderbilt University and the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala. The National Geographic Society is also connected to the excavations.


: cite conference |author=aut|Barrientos Quezada, Tomás |year=2007a |title=Cancuén: Punto estratégico para el comercio entre las Tierras Bajas y el Altiplano Maya durante el Período Clásico |url= |format=DOC online publication |conference=II Congreso Centroamericano de Arqueología en El Salvador, 23–27 October 2007 |booktitle=Interrelaciones Culturales de los diferentes grupos étnicos que habitaron en el área Centramericana |location=San Salvador|publisher= Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y el Arte (CONACULTURA), Museo Nacional de Antropología "Dr. David J. Guzmán" (MUNA), Ministerio de Turismo (MITUR), Asociación Amigos del MUNA (AAMUNA), Fundación Nacional de Arqueología en El Salvador (FUNDAR) |accessdate=2008-03-03 es icon : cite web |author=aut|Barrientos Quezada, Tomás|year=2008|title=Hydraulic Systems in Central Cancuén: Ritual, Reservoir, and/or Drainage?
url=|format=PDF online publication, translation from Spanish by Eduardo Williams |work=The Foundation Granting Department: Reports Submitted to FAMSI |publisher=Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. (FAMSI) |accessdate=2008-03-03
: cite book |author=aut|Demarest, Arthur A. |authorlink=Arthur Demarest |year=2006 |title=The Petexbatun Regional Archaeological Project: A Multidisciplinary Study of the Maya Collapse |series=Vanderbilt Institute of Mesoamerican Archaeology series, vol. 1 |location=Nashville, TN |publisher=Vanderbilt University Press |isbn=978-0-8265-1520-9 |oclc=63178772: cite book |author=aut|Mathews, Peter |authorlink=Peter Mathews (Mayanist) |coauthors=and aut|Gordon R. Willey|year=1991 |chapter=Prehistoric polities of the Pasion region: hieroglyphic texts and their archaeological settings |title=Classic Maya Political History: Hieroglyphic and Archaeological Evidence |editor=T. Patrick Culbert (ed.) |series=School of American Research advanced seminar series |location=Cambridge |publisher=Cambridge University Press |pages=pp.30–71|isbn=0-521-39210-1 |oclc=20931118 : cite journal|author=aut|Moran, Melanie |coauthors=and aut|Mimi Koumenalis |year=2005 |date=2005-11-18 |title=Royal massacre signals the beginning of the end of the Maya empire |url= |journal=Exploration: Vanderbilt's Online Research Magazine |publisher=Vanderbilt University |location=Nashville, TN |accessdate=2008-03-03: cite journal|author=aut|Salisbury, David |year=2003 |date=2003-11-07 |title=Ancient Maya stone altar recovered in Guatemala |url= |format=PDF |journal=Exploration: Vanderbilt's Online Research Magazine |publisher=Vanderbilt University |location=Nashville, TN |accessdate=2008-03-03: cite journal|author=aut|Salisbury, David |year=2004 |date=2004-05-07 |title=How Maya kings played ball |url= |journal=Exploration: Vanderbilt's Online Research Magazine |publisher=Vanderbilt University |location=Nashville, TN |accessdate=2008-03-03: cite web |author=aut|Skidmore, Joel |authorlink=Joel Skidmore |year=2005 |date=2005-11-19 |title=Cancuen in the News |url= |work=Mesoweb Reports and News |publisher=Mesoweb |accessdate=2008-03-03gaby

External links

* [ Maya Palace Uncovered]
* [ USATODAY: A ‘strange and fascinating’ find]
* [ National Geographic: Archaeologist Uncover Maya “Masterpiece” in Guatemala]
* [ Photo Gallery and Site description]

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