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KABÁH ARCHEOLOGICAL ZONE                                                     Printer friendly version


In Maya "The Hand That Chisels” or “The Hand of Kabal." Here we can observe many structures of the Puuc Mayan splendor. Kabáh is on the lower part of a valley surrounded by medium sized hills, most of which have small temples at the top of them specifically positioned to observe the Noh Pat and Uxmal, the two main buildings of the city.

The best known site south of
Uxmal, its' popularity with tourists is largely due to the existence of the Codz Poop or Wall of Masks, is a wall made up over 260 Chaac masks, stacked on top of one another in an almost fanatic configuration. Kabáh has been a site that has experienced a recent surge of re-construction and restoration. Also here is the much photographed arch that is thought to be the center of the city and the entrance to the sacbé (white road or Mayan highway) that went to Uxmal.

In a similar Puuc style that can be found in
Sayil, Labná and Xlapak, Kabáh is another example of this construction style that flourished in the eighth and ninth centuries throughout the Yucatán Peninsula. Recent excavations have uncovered life-sized statues of a Mayan King, restored to its position on the upper frieze of the rear of the Codz Poop.

The Mayan ruins at Kabáh are located along what is called "
The Puuc Route," named after the many sites around Uxmal where the Maya Puuc style of building can be found. It is here in the inland hill country of Yucatán that the best of Puuc architecture can be found. Although only a small part of this site has been excavated, it is home to some very interesting and unusual buildings and sculptures.

Though there are numerous representations of the rain god Chaac throughout Yucatán, nowhere are they as apparently obsessive as they are in the Codz Poop at Kabáh.

One of the most prominent buildings at Kabáh is the Palace of the Masks. This large building’s Chenes-style facade is completely covered with 260 masks of the rain god Chaac, who is sometimes called “The Big Nosed God.”. It is one of the most impressive in Maya architecture. Similar to other sites in the Puuc region, the people of Kabáh were dependent on rain to water their precious crops of corn. Thus the devotion to Chaac.

Measuring 45 meters long with 260 Chaac masks, it has been theorized that there was one mask built for every day in the Mayan calendar. The only structure that comes close to this repetitious use of the Chaac image is on the Palace of the Governor in
Uxmal. Though that structure shows 230 masks, they are not as closely stacked or as "overwhelming" as The Codz Poop which means “Rolled Mat.”

This structure is a true feat of engineering. Imagine for a moment if you will, that this building is almost 45 meters long. In the total area that makes up each Chaac mask, there are 19 different "blocks" including the nose. The total blocks needed for just the Chaac masks were therefore 4.940. Add to this the smaller blocks that made up the door jambs and other ornaments on the wall, and we can estimate that in all the building would require over 6.000 blocks.

There would be different "teams" of carvers, each working on a different section of the wall, all needing to be coordinated to fit together at the same time. All blocks carved from stone by hand, and all having to be within a certain tolerance. If each block was out even a centimeter, then by the time builders reached the far end of the wall, that error would have been so magnified that the patterns would not match at all.

What this tells us about the Maya, is that in a world just emerging from the Neolithic period of history; the Maya had a mass production system in place for the building of such structures. Likely different groups would be required to perform different functions. Some would cut the course stone in a quarry, others would transport the stone to those who roughed them into shape, and finally, the most skilled craftsman would perform the final carving to the exact dimensions needed to fit with the other teams to give the final product. All in an age with no calculators, no sophisticated measuring devices, and no metal tools.

Archeologists have not come across any definitive names for these inner structures at Kabáh, but they have included them in their reports as some of the aspects of these buildings are known to have significance in the Mayan culture.

On the same side of the road are the Great Temple and Temple of the Columns, palace-like structures with plainer façades, where restoration work is ongoing.

Kabáh also has a large arch with a sacbé (ancient road) connecting it with the nearby Mayan site of
Uxmal. At the height of the Classic Period, from 600 - 900 AD, Uxmal was the governmental center for the surrounding areas. Kabáh was one of its satellite cities, and although the archeological zone open to the public is somewhat small in size, there is little doubt that Kabáh was once a large and thriving city, as there are numerous ruins there still not excavated.

Workers are diligently working on the buildings at Kabáh, piecing together some of the details found at this site. Even by today’s standards, the Puuc Maya were without a doubt some of the most ingenious builders and artists when it comes to stone and plaster. Two impressive sculptures grace the facade of one of the temples, amazingly well-preserved considering their fragility and exposed location. A large pyramid at Kabáh is still waiting to be uncovered in the future. No one knows what artistic treasures may be found under the overgrown jungle trees and vines that cover its surface.

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Yucatan, Kabah, Archeological zone, Puuc Route, Codz Pop Building, Plaza - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0405

The Codz Pop Building at Kabáh

Yucatan, Kabah, Archeological zone, Puuc Route, Codz Pop Building, King Kabah statue, Detail - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0405
Statue of King Kabáh at The Codz Pop Building in Kabáh
Yucatan, Kabah, Archeological zone, Puuc Route, Codz Pop Building, Mask of Chaac - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0405
Masks of the God Chaac at The Codz Pop Building in Kabáh
Yucatan, Kabah, Archeological zone, Puuc Route, Plaza - Photo by German Murillo-Echavarria 0405
Plaza at Kabáh