The Mayan ruins known as Chacchoben, meaning “place of the red corn,” is located on the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, approximately 184 miles south of Cancun. The history of the site dates back to 200 B.C.E. when evidence suggest that the first inhabitants came to the area and lived in small villages near the water. As the Mayan population and power grew, they expanded to control the territory and resources of the surrounding areas. Their strategic location near the middle of the peninsula allowed them to participate in political and commercial exchange between territories to the north and south. The height of the Mayan empire was between 600 and 900, and the ruins at Chacchoben date back to 700.
Chacchoben remained populated by the Mayans until the Spanish conquests in the 1500s. The site was rediscovered in the 1940s by a man named Serviliano Cohuo who was looking for some land to farm. He lived with his family with the Mayan ruins on his land until he died in 1978. The ruins were not reported to the Mexican government until 1972 after they were encountered by American archeologist Dr. Peter Harrison. He was in the area working on a project from Tulane University. While flying in a helicopter area, he noticed hills of land in a predominately flat landscape and realized that there were temples beneath the hills. Dr. Harrison was the first to make maps of Chacchoben.
In 1994, the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History began to excavate and restore the site. It was opened to the public in 2002. There are temples as well as living areas that have been excavated. Portions of the ruins still remain under piles of dirt and plants because of lack of funding to continue excavation.
I had an awesome visit there earlier this month, and I would definitely suggest sun screen, bug spray and an umbrella if you go during the rainy season. It went from sun to a downpour of rain when I was there. There is a circular path that you walk to see the various structures, and you do get to climb parts of them. One unique thing that I learned is that in their prime, they were bright red. If you go to the backside of the Temple of the Moon, you can see a remaining portion of the red exterior. Unfortunately, in order to excavate the site, the top layer of the structures are sacrificed. There is also abundant wildlife here. We saw quite a long snake skin the rocks (luckily not the snake) and there were monkeys swinging through the trees.