Archaeological Museum – Campeche

Archaeological Museum – Campeche

Archaeological Museum – Campeche

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Archaeological Museum – Campeche

A small, yet very fine, museum containing artefacts uncovered at the Campeche Mayan sites of Calakmul, Edzna, Becan, Chicanna and Xpujil amongst others.

The collection includes various ceramics – of both daily use and as funereal offerings, jade masks, stelae and other stone sculptures.

The exhibits are laid out in such a way as to understand how the Mayans used these objects in various aspects of their daily, religious and after-life activities.

Getting there;

From Campeche. There is limited public transport along the road that heads west parallel to the coast. This is where the rich of Campeche live, with gated communities and 24 hour security. The museum is located in the Fuerte de San Miguel which sits on a high promontory looking down on the ocean.



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Acanche – Yucatan – Mexico



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The archaeological site lies 25 km south-east of the city of Merida, in the town of the same name. According to the Diccionario Maya Cordemex, the word Acanceh has two meanings: the first, akan (moan) and keh (deer); the second, ‘unidentified medicinal plant’. The local climate is sub-humid with the rainfall occurring in the summer months. The average annual temperature is 25° C and the precipitation 70.4 mm. The vegetation is of the low rainforest variety with trees growing to between 2 and 10 m in height. The main tree species are the poppy, ceiba, pochote and pixoy, while the most common animal species are the quail, cardinal, snake and iguana. The soils are characterised by layers of limestone, with elevations rising to one metre in height.

Pre-Hispanic history

The site has been occupied since the Middle Preclassic (700-300 BC) until the present day. As a result of the aforementioned works, we know that it covered an approximate area of 9 sq km. The archaeological evidence suggests that in the Middle Preclassic, Acanceh was an incipient site and that its importance grew in the Late Preclassic. This importance was sustained throughout the Early Classic, increased in the Late and Terminal Classic, and began to wane in the Postclassic. During the colonial period, Acanceh was an important town and has remained so to this day.

Site description

Despite the deterioration caused by the passage of time, the climate and systematic looting, the core area of the site still contains the most monumental structures: Structure 1 or the Pyramid, Structure 1A and the Palace of the Stuccoes. Approximately 900 m east of the Pyramid stands Structure 6A. The residential zone is situated around the core area of the site. Nowadays, both the monumental structures and the domestic constructions are immersed amid the colonial and modern buildings.

Structure 1 or the pyramid.

This is situated just north of the square in the town of Acanceh and is composed of four tiers; it measures 32×32 m and stands approximately 12 m high. It was originally decorated with stucco masks, which flanked each of the four stairways on the third tier; of the 8 masks in total, 5 have been preserved. The central component of the masks at Acanceh is an anthropomorphic head, modified and surrounded by elements typical of the Maya culture. The features of the face recall those of the sun god K’inich Ahau.

Structure 1a

Situated north-east of the Pyramid, this is a rectangular platform measuring 16 m in length and 14 m in width, with an approximate height of 5 m; it has three tiers and a stairway on the south facade. Over the course of many years, this structure has been dismantled. Originally, it must have been decorated with stucco because traces of modelled stucco were found during the restoration works conducted as part of the Acanceh Project.

Palace of the stuccoes

This stands 300m southeast of the Pyramid, on a massive platform measuring 50×50 m and 7 m in height. Several pre-Hispanic constructions were built on top of the platform, including the Palace of the Stuccoes, a structure with small spaces and a rectangular plan. The north facade displays a stucco frieze decorated by two rows of stepped motifs in the form of haut-relief merlons, inside which are stucco animals. The bottom row displays highly stylised mammals and the top row giant birds, and there are glyphs in the spaces between the merlons. These decorative details were painted in different colours.

Structure 6a

This consists of three stepped tiers, crowned by a temple, with a stairway on the west side that joins a 900-metre causeway leading to the centre of the site. It has a rectangular base measuring 20 m in length, 9 m in width and approximately 3.80 m in height. This consists of two constructions, a circular one that rises to 2.76 m from the springing line, with a space 2 m in diameter accessed via a narrow doorway, and another one that was abutted to the latter, probably to restrict access to the circular structure. In broad terms, Structure 6A can be classified as an underground astronomical chamber.


The analysis of the ceramic material obtained during the field campaigns at Acanceh indicate an occupation stretching from the Middle Preclassic to the present day. The most representative ceramic types include Ucu Black, Striated Chancerote and Dzudzuqil Cream (Middle Preclassic); Sierra Red, Tipical Striated Red (Late Preclassic); Xanaba Red, Chuburna Coffeecoloured and Timucuy (Early Classic); Sat Pre-slate, Muna Slate and Chum Unslipped (Terminal Classic); Kukula Cream, Sisal Unslipped and Balantun Black-onslate (Early Postclassic); Chen Mul Modelled and Navula Unslipped (Late Postclassic); Yunku Unslipped and Sacpokana Red (Protohistoric) and Cafe Colonial and the Olive Jar for the historic period.

Importance and relations

Nowadays we have sufficient archaeological information to suppose that from a very early date Acanceh was one of the principal pre-Hispanic centres in northern Yucatan. The ceramics found at Acanceh illustrate the importance of this site as a producer and importer of different types and varieties of pottery; they also indicate that from the Middle Preclassic Acanceh maintained trading and/or cultural relations with sites such as Oxkintoc, Komchen, Dzibilchaltun and Mayapan in Yucatan. It also had early ties with the Peten region in Guatemala, manifested by the similarity between the Acanceh Pyramid and Structure E VII sub at Uaxactun. Acanceh may also have been in contact with sites in central Mexico, such as Otumba, San Martin Queretaro, Tulancingo, Campeche and the east coast of Cancun and Belize.

Beatriz Quintal Suaste

From: ‘The Maya: an architectural and landscape guide’, produced jointly by the Junta de Andulacia and the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico, 2010p, pp392-393.

Getting there:

From Merida. The colectivos leave from Calle 52, between 67 and 69. Less than 30 minutes, M$25. The colectivo doesn’t go into the centre of the town so make sure you don’t miss your stop – as I did. Combis back to Merida leave from the main square. Just in front of the pyramid.


20d 48’48” N

89d 27’09” W


The ticket booth is the small yellow hut on the edge of the main square, close to the pyramid.


The guardian will open the gate to the Palace of the stuccoes and he will direct you to where it is.

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El Gran Museo del Mundo Maya – Merida

El Gran Museo del Mundo Maya - Merida

El Gran Museo del Mundo Maya – Merida

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El Gran Museo del Mundo Maya – Merida

Presented here are a selection of pictures taken inside the (relatively) new, and very modern, structure of the Museum of the Mayan World in the Yucatan city of Merida.

Obviously taking pictures of such objects in the context of a museum – whose lighting and presentation are not designed for the photographer (even good ones, not such as me) – does not always lead to the desired result.

As with the slide show from the Cancun Mayan Museum these images are presented to give an impression of what was produced in the Mayan past before the Spanish came and messed things up.

Whilst not in many ways a ‘perfect’ society – after all the Maya fought against themselves and neighbours; they had slaves; there was a hierarchy of wealth and power; and they killed people out of the ignorance they were doing so to appease non-existent Gods – the Maya developed a civilisation that was very distinct from that which had developed on the other side of the wide ocean. In fact, it was probably that ‘distinctiveness’ which led the Spanish to attempt to wipe out as much of that culture as they could. This was the declared aim of the ‘extirpation of idolatry’.

They destroyed a lot – some of which was irreplaceable such as the codices (manuscripts telling the history (or myths) of the Maya from their beginnings) – but as in all part of the ‘Americas’ much survived this state sponsored vandalism and more is learnt of the pre-Colombian past as time and investigations reveal more ‘secrets’.

But through the artefacts they left behind, as well as the many thousands of examples of their architecture, we know they had accumulated an immense field of knowledge in mathematics, astronomy, physics and architecture as well as being able to cope (more often than not) with the extremities of the climate and produce enough food for them to pursue their daily activities.

The idea of these posts is to present enough clues, or pieces of the puzzle, for viewers to be able to piece together what was the Mayan culture.

Too ambitious a goal? We shall see.


Gran Museo del Mundo Maya,

Calle 60,

Unidad Revolución,


Opening Times;

09.00-17.00 everyday apart from Tuesday.




How to get there;

The Museum is in the northern outskirts of the city but can be reached by public transport via the new, blue, municipal bus service R73 which leaves the centre of Merida from Calle 63, between 58 and 56.

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