Explore Mérida’s Archaeological Treasures With Yucatán Magazine

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UPDATE: The tour for Feb. 10 is full, but we have opened up another date for the following day. Please contact us at yesicabenitez@roofcatmedia.com for further details.

Mérida’s archaeological past is not just a subject of academic interest. It holds a special place in the hearts of many locals and newcomers. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Yucatán is well known for being home to some of the grandest Maya cities in Mesoamerica.

But aside from sites like Chichén Itzá, Uxmal, and Ek-Balam, the city of Mérida is home to hundreds of large and small archaeological sites.

Soblonké Park in northern Mérida is home to many structures that date to the 9th Century. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

For example, the area now occupied by Mérida’s downtown was a thriving Maya city known as Ichcanzijó before the conquest, also often referred to as T’Hó.

Prehispanic architectural elements are found beneath the facade of the Felipe Carrillo Puerto Theater in what is today downtown Mérida. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Ichcanzijó is believed to have been founded in the 5th Century BCE, but the remains of other settlements date more than a millennia further back in time.

For example, the relatively recently developed section of Mérida known as Caucel was once home to thousands of prehispanic structures, hundreds of which still survive today. However, many, like Xaman Susula, are covered in vegetation and hard to get to. 

Structure 1729 within Xaman Susula within the larger hypothesized Nohoch Caucel. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Though there is no academic consensus to argue that modern Caucel was once a unified city-state, the sheer amount of ancient temples in the region, all dating to roughly the same period, combined with the presence of ancient roads (sacbè) make the hypothesis of a Nohoch (meaning big) Caucel seem plausible. 

The Maya ballcourt in Caucel dates to the 8th Century BCE and is one of the oldest examples of this type of construction anywhere in Mesoamerica. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Another of the largest concentrations of Prehispanic archaeology in Mérida can be found in the settlement known as Chen Hó — often described as one of the area’s oldest elite suburbs of Maya antiquity. 

One of several large surviving structures in Chen Hó’s and the likely core of the ceremonial center. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Another of the most impressive archaeological complexes in Mérida is found within Ya’axtal Park. The site, often referred to as Xoclan, features several remarkable structures, including what is likely the largest pyramid within the city’s ring road. 

While today, Xoclán and downtown Mérida are connected via several avenues and streets, during antiquity, a Sacbé (or Mayan road) served as the main artery between these two settlements. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

If all of this sounds interesting to you, email us to join our group on Saturday, Feb. 10, for a day trip to several of Mérida’s archaeological highlights guided by Carlos Rosado van der Gracht (yours truly).

Seats for this experience are limited to 15, so if you are interested, please act fast. Get in touch at yesicabenitez@roofcatmedia.com or carlos.rosado@gmail.com
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy, and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway.
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