Thursday, August 23, 2012

Chicanná -- An Ancient Retreat for Elites

Author's note: I was able to find a map of Chicanná, but not all of the buildings were given a name or described. It is this map, which can be seen in Moon Yucatan Guide (see the References section), that I reference in the article.

Chicanná is an ancient Maya town that is located in the Mexican state of Campeche, in the Yucatan Peninsula.  North of the Calakmul Biosphere reserve, this site is located west of Becán and Xpujil, by around one mile. Its' name has been translated in various ways, including "House of the Mouth with Snakes", "House of the Snake Jaws" and "House of the Serpent Mouth".

History
It is understood that the height of this site occurred during the Late Classic period. It is thought to be a "retreat" for elites in association with the site of Becán. Discovered in 1966,  it was named Chicanná after one of its buildings, Structure II.

Architectural Style
Chicanná's architecture is a combination of Chenes and Río Bec styles. Structures are set in groups. The structures at Chicanná would have had decorated roofcombs with themes of gods and rulers, though many do not anymore.

Layout
Chicanná has a central plaza around which are four or five structures, with a rectangular structure on its east side. Structure I borders the west side of the plaza, Structure III is on the north side, on the south side is Structure IV  Structure II borders the plaza's east side.


Structure II (in some sources, Estructura II or Temple 2) at Chicanná possesses a Chenes-style monster-mask door -- in which the square doorway is the mouth -- with fangs. This door, the specific reason for Chicanná's name, may be a representation of Itzamna, as it seems to have crossed eyes and disc-like earrings. Structure II is also decorated with vertical rows of mosaic stone Chac masks (Chac being a rain deity), which still have some of their original red paint.



To the northeast of the plaza is a structure that the map titles Chultún. West of the plaza is a structure, and to the plaza's southwest is Structure XI.

Further west from the plaza, is Structure XX, which has three structures to its left. Dating from around 840 AD, Structure XX has levels of stone heads, sometimes thought to be Chac or Itzamná, a creator god. Inside Structure XX, some interior stucco artwork still exists, which includes depictions of human faces. In the Moon Yucatan Guide, the building is referred to as a temple-residence.

Southeast of the plaza is Structure VI, which still has some of its roofcomb. Structure VI has a smaller structure to its southwest and another one to its southeast.

Consideration
Today, people have to pay to see the site of Chicanná -- as of 2011 it costs M$37 to get in at a ticket booth north of the site. Also north of the site -- just across the street -- is the Chicanná Ecovillage Resort.

References:

"Cancún, Cozumel and the Yucatán"; Greg Benchwick; 2010

"Yucatan Pocket Adventures"; Bruce Conord, June Conord; 2005

"Explorer's Guide Mexico's Aztec & Maya Empires"; Zain Deane; 2011

"Moon Yucatan Guide"; Liza Prado, Gary Chandler; 2009

"Karen Brown's Mexico: Exceptional Places to Stay & Itineraries"; Clare Brown, Karen Brown, Jane Stevenson Day; 2006

"Mexico Handbook"; Patrick Maher; 2000

"The Rough Guide to Cancun and the Yucatan: Includes the Maya Sites of Tabasco & Chiapas"; Zora O'Neill; 2011

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