Structure II, Calakmul

The largest (by volume) structure at Calakmul, Campeche, Mexico:

Structure II

From this spot, the pyramid actually looks much smaller than it really is. The part you see from the base here is actually a later addition (more accurately, collection of three additions) to the original pyramid, which then rises even further behind this bit in the front. In all, Structure II has a base covering 120 x 120 meters (394 x 394 feet), and stands 45 meters (148 feet) tall.

Calakmul Structure III

Structure III isn’t the largest building at Calakmul, and it was likely never the fanciest, but it’s by far the most interesting one there:

Calakmul Structure III

It was typical in the Maya Classic era to periodically rebuild structures — tearing down old superstructures, covering their platforms with another layer of masonry, building anew on top of them. In some cases, this happened every 20 or 50 years for centuries — that’s why a number of them took on elephantine proportions.

Structure III was different, though. It seems to have been inhabited for the duration of Calakmul’s existence (about 1,500 years), but was never buried and rebuilt. Fairly early in its history, a very well-appointed tomb was built into one of its rear rooms — other than that, it appears that nothing was done to alter its original architecture.

For 1,500 years.

The inhabitants did such a good job of maintenance that when Calakmul was rediscovered 1,000 years after it was abandoned, this was the only structure at the site that wasn’t just a rubble mound. It’s thought that the tomb held one of the original kings of the site, and that Structure III was a palace inhabited by his descendants.

House of the Serpent Mouth

From the ancient Maya ruins of Chicanná, here’s the House of the Serpent Mouth (a.k.a. Structure II):

House of the Serpent Mouth, Chicanná

As you can see with a bit of squinting, this structure gets its nickname from the fact that the front of the building is modeled after a monster mouth (teeth both above and in front of the door, stylized eyes, etc.).

The site was discovered and named (Chicanná means “serpent-mouth house” in Mayan) by Jack D. Eaton in 1966. So… this structure was named after its Chenes-style monster mouth doorway, and the site was named after the structure. It’s a great little site to explore — not very big, but also not crowded.