Calakmul: Photos of the E-Complex observation group and Structure III, a palace-like structure with important tomb

Structure III: may containe the tomb of an Early Classic ruler or dynastic founder

Structure III

Structure III is one of the few buildings at Calakmul that remained unmodified over the long history of the city. In 1943, Ruppert remarked it was "so well preserved that even in its unexcavated state it yielded more information than any other structure at Calakmul."

This was probably because the palace-like structure contained an extremely important tomb, most likely that of one of Calakmul's Early Classic rulers or a dynastic founder, and was therefore held in such reverence that it was left untouched by later generations.

Struccture III: Click red arrows to see detail, on PLAN to return, or just scroll down

Structure II

Ruppert & Denison 1943: Fig. 2

"The plan of the building (fig. 2) included at least 12 rooms, with Rooms 1 and 2 as anterior projections. The area bounded by Room 4 on the north, Room 6 on the east [underneath which an important tomb was later discovered], and Room 9 on the south, seems from lack of debris to have been an open court...Also a small piece of stucco ornamentation, of the sort commonly used on exteriors of buildings, was found along the east side of the court. Portions of a west wall suggest that the court was enclosed on four sides. A doorway in this west wall could not have been more than 2.80 m. wide."

Ruppert & Denison 1943:14

Room 1 of Structure III

Structure III

"Room 1 has a width of 3.05 m. and a probable length of 5.25 m. The west and south walls have fallen; those to the north and east are standing. There are two doorways in the east wall: Doorway 1, to the north, has a width of 65 cm. and rises to within 1.08 of the spring of the vault. The lintel is of stone, and two rectangular designs have been cut in its west face.

Doorway 2, leading into Room 4, is indicated only by the north jamb. No lintel remains in position nor was one identified in the debris...A cross, 30 cm. high and 15 cm. wide, has been carved in one of the stones of the east wall, 78 cm. from the north end of the chamber. The carving was done at some early time, for it is now covered with lichens.

There is a single doorway, 65 cm. wide, in the north wall. The east jamb is in line with the east wall of the chamber and its component stones have been chipped away to allow for a diagonal opening into Room 2.

The section of the vault soffit above the east wall of Room 1 rises to a height of 1.10 m. and is stepped....There are two beam holes in the east vault soffit at the spring line; the one on the north still contains a portion of a beam."

Ruppert & Denison 1943:15

NOTE: The cross on the north wall mentioned by Ruppert & Denison can be seen in this photo to the left of the left-most door.

Structure III, Room 2

Str III Rm 2

Karl Ruppert and John H. Denison visited Calakmul in 1932 as part of the First Campeche Expedition sponsored by the Carnegie Institution. They report:

"Room 2 has an average width of 1.30 m. at the floor level. The walls slope slightly inward so that at the spring line, 2.50 m. above the floor, the room is 1.20 m. wide. At the time the First Campeche Expedition visited Calakmul there was a trench in the floor, at the west end of the room, 70 cm. deep and 80 cm. long, which showed only one well-finished floor, beneath which the hearting is very compact. We were told by his guide that Lundell made the trench when he visited the site in 1931.

The doorway in the west wall, which comes in at an angle from Room 1, has an average width and height of 50 cm. and 1.30 m. respectively. The south jamb, formed by the south wall of the room, is very regular; the north jamb is uneven. Small holes, one near the base and one near the top of each jamb, perhaps allowed for the placing of poles to support and secure curtains in the doorway. The lintel is of stone. A ventilator in the west wall is shown in plate 2c.

Approximately 30 cm. farther east [on the north wall, right side of photo] is a great crack in the masonry which extends from the floor to within 75 cm. of the top of the vault. West of the ventilator the name, "C. L. LUNDELL," with the date, "12-29-31," has been scratched in the plaster. Directly above the name are incised two connected and vertically opposed key patterns, probably ancient."

Ruppert & Denison 1943: Plate 2c

Structure III, Room 3

Structure III Structure III

"Debris from the fallen vault and south wall has so filled the doorway that only the upper portion is exposed...Names and dates have been scratched in the plaster north of the doorway. There are also some incised zigzag lines and rectangles north of the doorway which, because they extend below the debris, may be ancient. A doorway in the north wall...jamb appears the date "Dic 31 de 1931," the name "Guillermo Argaes," and the somewhat indistinct wording "Oeas el guillo." This may be an illiterate form of Oyes el gallo or Oigas el gallo and refer to a story told by the workmen about chicleros who visited Calakmul and heard the crowing of a bird and thought the sounds came from Central Buenfil [their base camp].

The masonry is similar to that in Room 2. A great deal of plaster, bearing traces of red paint, remains on the exposed north and west walls, and in the northeast corner, directly below the spring line.

The vault rises 2.20 m. and is stepped (fig. 9a)...The stones of the first course of the vault are large, their face having an average height of 32 cm., and some appear to be beveled. The subsequent courses are of long, flat slabs; the capstones are similar in shape and have a span of 23 cm."

Ruppert & Denison 1943:17

Jade funerary mask found beneath room 6

Jade Mask

Photo courtesy of Louisa Spottswood

"When Folan discovered the tomb, beneath Room 6 of the palace-type superstructure, it contained the skeletal remains of a male, at least 30 years old, lying fully extended on his back. Beneath him were five pottery dishes. Fragments of textiles and stucco, all impregnated with red pigment, were found with the bones.

Among the numerous offerings in the chamber, which included a stingray spine, two pearls, thousands of shell beads, and nine elaborately painted pottery vessels, was an unusually large number of jade items. These include 32 beads, a ring, six earflares, and three mosaic masks. One of the jade masks, of some 170 mosaic pieces, was worn over the buried man's face; another, of 120 pieces, was on his chest; and the third, of 92 pieces, was on his belt. There were also three bluish-colored jade celts, originally suspended from one of the masks, each inscribed with an incised pair of glyphs. Joyce Marcus has been able to read the name and title on one of these glyphs: she gives them as "Long-Lipped Jawbone" and "caan na" (sky house?), which probably identified the tomb's occupant.

The pottery vessels date the tomb to a time before the earliest known historical reference to a Calakmul ruler on the site's monuments (the ruler identified on Stela 43, which was dedicated in A.D. 514). Thus, until further Early Classic texts are discovered, we cannot verify that "Long-Lipped Jawbone" was a ruler (and not some other important elite figure) or determine his potential place in the dynastic sequence."

Robert Sharer, The Ancient Maya, p. 198

The south facade of Structure III as it lookedin 1932

Str III So. facade

Ruppert & Denison 1943: Plate 1b

This photo, from the First Campeche Expedition in 1932, shows the south façade of Structure III.

Calakmul E-Group celestial observatory, Structures IV and VI

E Group

Click on arrows to jump to photos, click E-GROUP to return here

Structure VI and its companion across the plaza, Structure IV, form a kind of celestial observatory called an "E Group." An E Group is composed of an observation platform on the west facing a group of three sighting temples to the east. The eastern temples mark the positions of the rising sun at the summer solstice (north temple), the winter solstice (south temple), and the equinox (central temple).

This configuration gets it name from the E-7-Sub group of structures at Uaxactun, where this type of complex was first identified. Another famous example of an E Group is the Lost World pyramid complex at Tikal.

Ruppert & Denison 1943: Calakmul map detail

Structure IV-B marks the position of the rising sun at the equinox

Structure IV

In the middle of the 6th century A.D., Ku Hix ruled Calakmul and consolidated a network of strategic alliances with other Mayan states in an attempt to surround Tikal with a ring of enemies comprised of Calakmul to the north, Caracol in the south, Naranjo to the east, and Yaxchilán to the west.

Ramón Carrasco writes that "under the rulership of Ku Hix, some renovation projects in the Great Plaza of Calakmul were undertaken, one of which was the remodeling of Structure IV where his remains were buried after his death. The dating of his tomb, based on carbon-14 evidence, yielded results of 560 ±50, which is consistent with the date of his death. The funerary chamber where his remains were placed has been profaned in the Late Classic period and part of its contents, specifically the icons of power associated with his investiture, were placed in niches conditioned in the construction fill of Structure IV.

Among the objects in the tomb's offering was a funerary mask made of ceramic representing an individual of advanced age, which seems to portray Ku Hix at the moment of his death. Analysis of the bone remains indicates the advanced age of the dead. In Structure IV, Ku Hix ordered the placement of the only stone lintel reported for this region, though this kind of element was very common in the architecture of the Usumacinta basin; the lintel represents him in a ritual dance of rebirth at the edge of the cosmic cleft."

Ramón Carrasco V., The Metropolis of Calakmul, Campeche. Rizzoli: NY (1998)

Structure IV-C marks the position of the rising sun at the winter solstice

Structure IVc

Long view of the three interconnected sighting temples comprising Str IV

Structure IV

Structure IV-A marks the position of the rising sun at the summer solstice

Structure IV

Stela 8? in front of Structure IVa

Structure IV

Str VI is the platform to view the sun rising over the three sighting temples to the east

Structure VI


Structure VI Stelae in front of Viewing Platform

Str. VI

Flanking the top of the stair on Structure VI is the first known monument associated with Ruler 5 (Stela 24 on the left), paired with Stela 23 (right) which portrays his wife. Both are dated to the Mayan year (702 A.D.).

These stela are very eroded, but for a drawing which suggests how they might have looked, see Ruppert & Denison's Plate 49, which depict another famous husband and wife stela pair, stela 28 and 29.

arrow_IVb arrow_VI arrow_IVc arrow_IVa arrow_all south_facade room2 room6 room3 room1