Cyrus L. Lundell, a biologist employed by the Mexican Exploitation Chicle Company, visited Calakmul on December 29, 1931. Although the site was known by chicleros even before that time, Lundell was the first to make it known to the archaeological community, and in March 1932 went to Chichen Itza to report his discovery to S.G. Morley. Morley was then creating a comprehensive catalog of dates found on Maya stelae, and writes: "So important did the ruins seem, from Mr. Lundell's description, and so many inscribed monuments did it evidently contain, that it was decided to equip an expedition for its immediate investigation in order to take advantage of transportation facilities at the time available through operations of chicle workers in the region, but which might, in another year, not be available."
Lundell was responsible for naming the site Calakmul. He writes, "In Maya, ca means two, lak means adjacent, and mul signifies any artificial mound or pyramid, so Calakmul is the City of the Two Adjacent Pyramids."
After the Carnegie Expeditions in the '30s, work at the site stopped for 40 years -- in part due to the extreme isolation of Calakmul -- until the 1982 project by the Universidad Autónoma de Campeche directed by William J. Folan. The site has subsequently become famous for a series of magnificent jade funerary masks unearthed by the Campeche project.
As studies continue, it becomes increasingly evident that Calakmul was a major superpower in the region and primary rival to Tikal for dominance of the area. One hundred three carved stelae have been found at this huge site, with dates ranging from 514 A.D. to 830 A.D. Calakmul probably supported a population of over 50,000, and so far more than 6,250 structures have been discovered in an area of 25 square kilometers.