Hochob Header

The buildings at Hochob are grouped around a small plaza and are late classic Chenes in style. On the west side of the plaza is Structure I, a building similar to the primary Structure II but much less intact. To the south are Structure V and VI, pyramidal structures with small semi-functional temples at the top.

Let us begin on the north side of the plaza with the Late Classic temple Structure II. This is the principle temple at Hochob, a gorgeous example of a Chenes "monster-mouth" temple, and an architectural treasure.

Hochob's major temple, Structure II, after consolidation

Hochob, Str. II

To me, this mask has a rather startled expression, due no doubt to having lost all of its nose, part of its left eye, and all of its upper teeth to the depredations of time.

The rounded stones between the eyes mark the area where archaeologists consolidated this building and repaired a collapsed lintel over the central doorway.

Teobert Maler's 1895 photo of Structure II

Hochob, Str. II

This photo, published by Teobert Maler in 1895, shows how the building looked before the area above the door completely collapsed.

The archaeologist David Potter notes that there are two realistic human faces located at the two upper corners of the central facade, i.e., above the laticed towers that form the edges of the central structure. He notes that these faces are easily missed; I can barely make out the face on the right side of Maler's photo, but it was completely gone in 2003 when we visited.

David Potter, Maya Architecture of the Central Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, p. 107.

Reconstruction of Structure II at Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Mexico City

Str. II replica

The Museo Nacional de Antropologia in Mexico City has reconstructed Structure II based on drawings by archaeologist George Andrews and the above mentioned 1895 photograph by Teobert Maler.

The architectural historian Paul Gendrop, citing Andrew's reconstructive drawing, remarks: "Above the wide upper mask the bodies of two serpents intertwine (a frequent motif on this kind of entrance). And in continuation of the façade there are the remains of a "soaring" comb, with profuse openwork, whose decoration consists of a row of large standing human figures."

Paul Gendrop, Rio Bec, Chenes, and Puuc Styles in Maya Architecture, p. 101

The main facade of Structure II is flanked by two lateral wings

Hochob, Str. II

The main facade of Structure II is slightly recessed and somewhat higher than its two lateral wings. The facades on these wings once had elaborate monster masks on their upper zones.

Teobert Maler's 1895 photo of the east lateral wing before the lintel collapsed

Hochob, Str. II

This photo, published by Teobert Maler in 1895, shows how the lateral wing looked before the lintel collapsed, taking with it the monster mask.

The east lateral wing of Structure II in 2003

Hochob, Str. II

Today, much of the roof and upper zones of the lateral wings are gone.

Masks of the rain god Chaak on the wing corners are a new decorative element

Hochob, Str. II

Gendrop observes: "Structure 2 is divided into three clearly defined volumes, both horizontally and vertically, with the central section prominent not only because of its roofcomb and its opulently ornamented entrance, but also because of its more elevated position and the noticeable recess that accentuates the volume of the wings in respect to it. These, in their turn, with their undecorated, smooth surfaces offer visual relief in the midst of such obvious exuberance.

The upper part [of the wings], on the other hand, stands out not only in the physical sense of the word (because of its upsweep), but also because of its decorative concept itself: a wide upper mask very similar to that of the main entrance, but flanked by a cascade of corner masks, an apparently new trait in the theme of zoomorphic entrances."

Paul Gendrop, "Rio Bec, Chenes, and Puuc Styles in Maya Architecture," p. 100.

Detail of the corner masks show the long-nosed rain god Chaak in profile

Hochob, Str. II

"In fact, we can recall that the masks we have been discussing in previous examples usually consisted of simple profiles in vertical succession that complemented a partial entrance or enriched a whole entrance. From now on, the cascades of profile masks will tend to disappear in favor of corner and/or frontal variations."

Paul Gendrop, "Rio Bec, Chenes, and Puuc Styles in Maya Architecture," p. 100.

The Chaak masks contrast with the older Itzamna-themed zoomorphic doorways

Hochob, Str. II

"Similar in their essential features to their profile counterparts, from which the three-dimensional types seem to have been derived, and whose long vertical stacks flank the central entrance, these corner masks nevertheless present a series of traits that give this theme, so common in Maya iconography, a distinctive touch.

Thus, even though there remain nearly immutable features, such as the eyes, maxillaries, fangs (and to a lesser degree, the earplugs with their usual decorations), the nostrils with their long bone nosepieces disappear almost completely, and ­­ a peninsular trait par excellance ­­ the nose appendage becomes more and more prominent, like a trunk, usually twisting downward and then turning the tip into a kind of hook that, in the present example, is scarcely noticeable."

Paul Gendrop, "Rio Bec, Chenes, and Puuc Styles in Maya Architecture," p. 100-102.

It is interesting to compare these masks with masks from Labna, Uxmal, and Sayil representing the later Puuc style from northern Yucatan. Even though the elements are the same, each mask has it's own distinct personality.

Gendrop continues: "It is from this time [830 A.D.] that we see a spectacular development of the architectonic mask in the Puuc region. With the exception of the already mentioned late revivals of zoomorphic doorways, it now appears as a theme disassociated from the worship of Itzamná and becomes the only religious theme that traditionally is associated with Chac—or Chaakc—the Yucatecan god of rain."

I enjoy standing in central zoomorphic doorway with its exuberant elaboration

Hochob, Str. II

"Almost the entire center facade consists of an elaborate conventionalized relief depicting the open-serpent-mouth motif. The serpent motif is repeated at different scales as though it were an esoteric preoccupation of an artist who was nonetheless disciplined in composition and imaginative in the realization of a theme."

David F. Potter, "Maya Architecture of the Central Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico," p. 106-7.

The almost fractal elaboration of the Itzamna serpent motif on the door side panels

Hochob, Str. II

"On either side of the door is an elaborated serpent face in profile, the whole cast into a strikingly rectangular mould. One of these profile heads is given in Fig. 175. It is an interesting example of elaboration, since the top of the eye is formed by a small complete serpent whose tail constitutes the nose plug of the greater head.

The noteworthy features in the present connection are the teeth that project inward at the side of the door and the peculiar right-angled turn of the jaw. It should also be stated that the design does not completely fill a four-sided area and that details from other masks intrude into the open spaces."

Herbert J. Spinden, "A Study of Maya Art", p. 126

The elaborate abstract design of the cascading mask panels

Hochob, Str. II Mask Panel

Paul Gendrop refers to this type of panel as "cascading mask panels". The figures in these panels are very abstract and symbolic representations of serpent heads.

The panels at Hochob are "elaborate and exquisite, where the eyes, inter-eye spaces, maxillaries, fangs, and tongue form an elegant and carefully controlled interplay of lines. The earplug-upper volute-bone pendant trio is often complemented by volutes of smoke, or, more frequently, by bil or germination symbols."

Paul Gendrop, Rio Bec, Chenes, and Puuc Styles in Maya Architecture, p. 78.

Hochob, Str. II

ADDENDUM: This link goes to a hi-tech and interesting 3D model (photogrammetry scan) of a reconstructed version Structure II by Austin Beaulier.

This rendering is a kind of photomontage because the small Maya "people" in front of the 3D temple are actually scans of small clay Jaina figurines from Campeche, resulting in a combination of architecture from one region and clay figures from another.

Thanks to Jonathan Fisher who, although working mainly with scientific visualization, let me know about this interesting 3D architectural model