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Arquitectura y Arqueología

Paul Gendrop

Architectural survey of the Puuc archaeological region 1984 field season (jan. 15 - april 14, 1984), preliminary report

George F. Andrews

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1El presente reporte subraya los resultados del reconocimiento arquitectónico de la región del Puuc del sur de Yucatán y norte de Campeche durante la temporada de campo de 1984. Se visitaron sesenta y nueve sitios en aquella región con el fin de hacer un inventario detallado de todos los restos arqueológicos expuestos. Entre los datos analizados se incluyeron medidas y detalles de elementos arquitectónicos tanto interiores como exteriores, detalles constructivos, fotografías y croquis. Cada vez que resultó posible, se hicieron mapas esquemáticos y se registraron datos de elementos escultóricos asociados con los edificios. Este reconocimiento forma parte de un programa a largo plazo que tiene por finalidad la recolección de datos, por parte del Centro Regional del Sureste del INAH, para establecer un archivo arquitectónico que contenga información detallada sobre la arquitectura, la organización del sitio y los patrones de asentamiento en la región del Puuc. El reporte incluye también recomendaciones con respecto a futuros proyectos de rescate y excavación en sitios particulares que parecen ofrecer las mejores posibilidades para la obtención de datos en materia de cronología, estructura y organización de la comunidad, e historia cultural para la región Puuc comprendida como un todo.

2Introduction. The architectural survey proyect in the Puuc archeological region described below is an essential part of a long term, comprehensive survey of the Puuc and adjacent regions currently being carried out by staff members of the Centro Regional del Sureste, INAH. This survey has as its ultimate goal the formulation of a data bank which will contain detailed information on the location, size, spatial distribution, architecture and sculptured monuments of all archaeological sites in the Puuc and adjacent regions in Yucatán, Campeche, and Quintana Roo. When completed, this data bank will form an invaluable research resource for future generations of students and professionals since it will constitute a permanent record of many buildings and structures which will no longer be directly available for study. Each year, significant numbers of ancient Maya buldings are irretrivably lost due to collapse from natural causes or through deliberate destruction. These losses can still be compensated for in part by making an accurate record of the present condition of all standing architectural remains prior to any further destruction from natural or human causes.

3Architectural Survey Project - 1984 Field Season. During the period January 15, 1984 to April 14, 1984, the Project Director, George F. Andrews, assisted by Geraldine D. Andrews, investigated sixty-nine (69) archaeological sites in Yucatán and Campeche which fall within the Puuc Archaeological Region. During the period January 15, 1984 to February 22, 1984, the investigating team also included Carlos Pérez A. and Lourdes Toscano H., staff members of the CRS.

4The main purpose of these on-site investigations was to make a detailed record of all exposed architectural remains at these sites, as well as to obtain preliminary data in regard to adjacent monuments, mounds, terraces and platforms. The basic data includes all or part of the following information, depending on the present state of preservation of the sites and buildings in question:

  1. Present access to site.
  2. General description of site in regard to topography, ancient water resources, and estimated size, together with the number, character and distribution of exposed building remains.
  3. Detailed data, including dimensions, of all expo- sed architectural, construction, and decorative features of each building investigated.Architectural features include platforms or terraces supporting buildings, stairways, basal mouldings, lower wall zones, medial mouldings, upper wall zones, cornice mouldings, roofcombs, doorways, wall openings, platforms or benches in rooms, niches, vaults, crossties in walls and vaults, cordholders, stone rings, rod sockets and interior moldings. Construction features include wall, vault and roofcomb construction techniques as well as the number, size, shape, and profiles of the various specialized stones used in the construction of walls, vaults, roofcombs, doorways, mouldings, stairways, and supporting platforms and terraces. Decorative features include carved stone, plaster, or painted decorative elements as used on interior or exterior surfaces of walls, vaults, mouldings, roofcombs and other parts of buildings, including stairways.
  4. Location, size, and form of sculptured stone monuments associated with buildings.
  5. Notes in regard to the architectural style of all buildings investigated.
  6. Orientation of buildings, using Brunton compass.
  7. Black and white photos and color transparencies of all buildings included in survey (overall views and details).

1. Rancho Pérez, Yucatán. Structure 1. Detail of upper decoration. Drawing Sofija Ristic.

5In all, we were able to record detailed data from over 200 partially standing buildings and, in addition, were able to obtain preliminary data on a large number of almost totally destroyed buildings and house platforms. Wherever feasible, sketch maps were made showing those buildings we recorded in correct relation to adjacent mounds and structures.

6At the present time, this data is in the form of handwritten field notes, together with preliminary sketches, plans, diagrams, details, etc. covering items 1 through 6 above. In total, the raw data includes well over 600 pages of notes and drawings which are supplemented by over 1,000 black and white 35mm. negatives and approximately 600 35 mm. color transparencies. The translation of the raw data into “archival” form will form the second phase of the project.

7It should be noted that with a few important exceptions, the data obtained from the present study comes from archaeological sites and buildings that have not been previously reported on in the basic literature and thus represents a significant addition to the existing corpus of architectural data obtained from other sites in the same region. At those sites which have previously been investigated by others, we have been able to fill in gaps in the existing data or to clarify certain details overlooked in earlier studies.

8List of Sites Investigated.


10Balché-Groups A and B






16Balché - Group C

17Kabáh - Western Groups




21Xculoc - Central Groups




25Xcalumkin - Glyphic Group



28X’Corralché - Near Cumpich

29Xcalumkin - Group north of road







36Unnamed Site - 1.5 km. E. of Xculoc


38Unnamed Site-Near km. 20. highway to Cumpich

39Xculoc - Western Group





44Kom - Groups B and C





49X’Corralché - Near Cooperativa


51Pozo 10, Plan Tabi


53Pozo 6, Plan Tabi


55Tzekelhaltún - 4-5 km. beyond Xcuncat

56Benito Juárez

57Nohcacab - Group B

58Xkakochná - Group B


60Sannacté (Sacnicté)

61Mulutzekel - Group A


63Xlapak - Near Xnibacal



66San Pablo

67Kom - Group A


69Sayil - Group with “unfinished building”


71Xlabpak - Near Sayil

72Sayil - Northwest Groups


74Yakal Chuc

2. Miramar, Campeche. Detail of corner masks (restored). Drawing George F. Andrews.

75Site Size and Organization. The sites covered in the present study vary considerably in size. At one end of the scale are very large, and obviously important centers such as Xkoch, X’Corralché, and Nohcacab, which are represented by numerous massive platforms, terraces, and pyramids supporting very large and imposing stonemasonry structures. At the other end of the scale are very small sites which appear to consist of a single small vaulted building standing on a low terrace or platform. The majority of sites fall somewhere between these two extremes and one of our current pressing problems is to develop a more rigorous method of determining the size of individual sites, based on both quantitative and qualitative criteria. In our final report, we hope to deal with this problem in greater detail.

76Our survey also suggests that the conditions of the natural topography at any particular site played an important role in determining overall site organization. Wherever the terrain is relatively flat or gently rolling, as in the Santa Elena District, the sites tend to be more nucleated and the larger and more important structures are organized around a series of adjacent courtyards or plazas. Those sites which are located in the Bolonchén District, which is marked by dome-shaped hills interspersed with level valleys and savannas, tend to be more dispersed and feature small complexes of structures occupying the tops of adjacent hills together with scattered buildings in the level areas between. It should be emphasized that this conclusion is strictly tentative, pending further analysis of our data.

77Building Size and Form. The vaulted masonry buildings encountered in our survey range in size from very small, one-room structures no more than 4 m. wide by 5 m. long, to very large one and two-story buildings with 20 or more rooms. Most of the buildings investigated fall somewhere between these two extremes and buildings with three to eight rooms are most common. While simple, rectangular forms with one or two ranges of rooms can be considered as the norm, L shapes, U shapes, T shapes, and more complex forms are found in sufficient numbers to suggest that Puuc architecture is represented by a complex building typology which will require considerably more analysis to elucidate. Not surprisingly, given their almost total absence at other well known Puuc sites, we did not find a single round vaulted masonry building at any of the sites we investigated although low, round platforms were observed in several locations.

78Summary. The 1984 field season exceeded our expectations in terms of the number of sites investigated and the number and variety of building forms for which we were able to obtain detailed data. While the basic data has yet to be processed, several tentative conclusions can be drawn from the preliminary data.

  1. The large number of sites we identified with one or more buildings executed in what 1 have called the Early Puuc architectural style gives added impetus to the premise that the Puuc archaeological region was already widely settled prior to the erection of any buildings in the classic Puuc styles.
  2. Our survey suggests that there are several generic forms of building complexes which are found at numerous sites throughout the Puuc region. Descriptions and illustrations of these complexes will be presented in our final report.
  3. There is a relatively high incidence of buildings with painted capstones in the Puuc region which calls for further investigation of the origins and meaning of this special feature.
  4. Buildings executed in the Puuc Colonnette style dominate the architectural scene at all sites investigated in this study. Conversely, buildings in the Puuc Mosaic style carrying long-nosed masks are relatively rare, and are found mostly at only the largest sites.
  5. All buildings we encountered in our field study carrying roofcombs were executed in the Early Puuc style, suggesting a strong connection between building form and cultural development.
  6. High pyramids supporting temple-type buildings are very rare at Puuc sites and tend to occur only at the very large sites. Most of these are confined to a relatively small area which includes Uxmal, Kabáh Xkoch, Nohpat and X’Corralché. This tight grouping suggests special relationships among these nearby sites which needs further investigation.
  7. The general level of consistency in the execution of buildings in any particular architectural style (Early Puuc, Classic Puuc Colonnette, Classic Puuc Mosaic), in terms of construction techniques and procedures, together with the consistent use of a limited set of decorative motifs, suggests that certain cultural norms permeated the entire Puuc archaeological region. While no two buildings we investigated are exactly alike, the differences are at the level of details rather than basic design and execution.

79Second Phase of Project. As noted earlier, the first phase of the architectural survey project was concerned only with obtaining raw data directly in the field since this could only be accomplished during the dry season when the dirt roads in the rural areas of Yucatán and Campeche are passable. During the second phase, which will require an additional six to eight months to complete, the field data will be translated into the form of scaled architectural drawings, including floor plans, sections and elevations (restored) of all buildings and building complexes investigated over the past three months. These drawings will be supplemented by written descriptive and analytical materials, together with black and white photographs and color transparencies. The final documentation will be submitted in a form suitable for inclusion in the permanent archives of the CRS.

3. Suna (Suum, Tzum), Campeche. Detail of lost mask, partially restored after a Maler photo by Paul Gendrop.

80Addendum: Recommendations for future consolidation and/or research projects at sites covered in this study.

81Our survey suggests that there are at least 10 to 12 archaeological sites in various parts of the Puuc archaeological region which are worthy of special consideration. In some cases, these are sites where important, or unique examples of Puuc architecture, are in imminent danger of immediate collapse unless some steps are taken within the next 1 to 3 years to consolidate the walls, vaults, doorways, roofcombs and other architectural elements still standing. In other cases, the sites mentioned represent unique opportunities for multidiscilipinary research and excavation projects which would be of significant value to students and professionals alike. These sites are listed below, together with brief comments identifying their special importance.

  1. Cobalchac. A relatively small, compact site with a variety of architectural remains, including at least one two-story building. Also includes several varieties of platforms as well as a number of chultunes. Principal standing structure has unusual floor plan and details and is well worth consolidation. Would make an ideal “nucleated” site for detailed study by professionals and students.
  2. Sannacté (Sacnicté). An unusual, medium-sized site which includes two natural hills which have been reshaped into the form of stepped pyramids on front side. Each of these “pyramids” supports a small, oneroom temple-type building executed in the Early Puuc style. Site also includes a sacbé, as well as a good sized range-type building with unusual stylistic details which requires immediate consolidation to prevent collapse.
  3. Chuncanob. A relatively small, compact site easily accessible from the village of Ticum. One of the partially standing buildings, with extremely unusual ground plan and large curved wall, requires immediate structural reinforcement to prevent collapse of fine example of long-nosed mask. A second major structure, with rooms arranged around all four sides of a large solid core, is also in need of immediate “rescue” consolidation.
  4. Nohcacab. Site is located on grounds of Rancho Nohcacab, about eleven kilometers from the village of Xul. Best preserved portion of site occupies the top of a very large hill which has been terraced into several levels. Building remains are monumental in scale and include many large buildings which were decorated with elaborate, carved stone sculpture. Single hilltop, with remains of scores of structures, courts and terraces, provides a unique opportunity to deal with a “finite” center with a great variety of architectural forms.
  5. Bacabchén. Appears to be a relatively small site which is situated on top of a medium high hill about one kilometer east of the village of Bacabchén. Buildings and mounds have been extensively looted due to proximity to village. Principal partially standing structure has complex floor plan and includes remnants of a large roofcomb, as well as a small portion of a facade which was covered with painted stucco sculpture. Remaining sculptures are reminiscent of stucco sculptures at Acancéh and appear to be “early” as do those at Acancéh. Excavation might well yield additional stucco sculptural forms which are almost non-existant in the Puuc archaeological region.
  6. Balché. This site is representative of a number of Puuc settlements with a “dispersed” spatial organization. The remains of a number of vaulted masonry buildings are spread out over four adjacent hills which cover an area of over 1.5 km. from north to south and.5 km. from east to west. Site includes eight partially standing buildings worthy of excavation and consolidation. Site can be easily reached via a “white road” but consolidation may be hampered due to hilltop locations of most buildings.
  7. Kom. This is also a “dispersed” site with three main groups of partially standing buildings. Considerable variety in building form and architectural style, including both early and late styles. Relatively easy access via a dirt road.
  8. X’Corralché. A very large and important site which ranks in size and complexity with Kabáh, Sayil, Nohpat, etc. Includes one very high pyramid and three lower pyramids arranged around a large plaza. Largest pyramid has partially exposed remains of “early” building with roofcomb near top which was later covered over with additional construction. Excavation of this building should result in discovery of well preserved early structure as at Mul-Chic. Most of the large vaulted masonry buildings here are in an advanced state of collapse but excavation and consolidation of buried features whould lead to recovery of very important data. Presence of carved and dated (?) stelae adds to the importance of this site.
  9. Miramar. Small to medium sized site located on the grounds of the Rancho Miramar near Bolonchén de Rejón. Most important building we observed includes parts of two sets of stacked, long-nosed corner masks in a unique arrangement. Portion of façade containing these masks projects out in front of main façade of adjacent wings about 1.6 m. The two sets of masks are separated by a long passageway at right angles to the main façade which does not appear to have been vaulted. This is also a unique architectural feature. These special features clearly warrant further investigation.
  10. Ichpich. Investigated by writer in 1982. I view Ichpich as a particularly important site since it is located in an “intermediate” zone between the Puuc and Chenes regions and the exposed architectural remains are executed in an intermediate style which falls somewhere between the Puuc and Chenes styles. Three partially standing buildings are in imminent danger of total collapse unless consolidated in the very near future. This site affords a unique opportunity to obtain basic data bearing heavily on the question of the temporal and cultural relationships between the Puuc and Chenes archaeological regions.

1. Map showing sites with classic Puuc, Chenes-Puuc, and Chenes architecture.

Table des illustrations

Légende 1. Rancho Pérez, Yucatán. Structure 1. Detail of upper decoration. Drawing Sofija Ristic.
Fichier image/jpeg, 223k
Légende 2. Miramar, Campeche. Detail of corner masks (restored). Drawing George F. Andrews.
Fichier image/jpeg, 45k
Légende 3. Suna (Suum, Tzum), Campeche. Detail of lost mask, partially restored after a Maler photo by Paul Gendrop.
Fichier image/jpeg, 167k
Légende 1. Map showing sites with classic Puuc, Chenes-Puuc, and Chenes architecture.
Fichier image/jpeg, 235k


Project Director Professor of Architecture University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, 20 April 1984

© Centro de estudios mexicanos y centroamericanos, 1985

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