New findings shed light on ancient Maya royal house

Researchers uncover lineage and family name of one of Chichen Itza's most influential ruling dynasties

Temple of the Jaguar, Chichen Itza, Yucatán. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Temple of the Jaguar, Chichen Itza, Yucatán. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

New research identifies inscriptions found at Chichen Itza as referring to individuals belonging to the royal house of Cocom, a common surname to this day in Yucatán. 

The discovery was made by the archaeologists Eduardo Pérez de Heredia and Peter Biró, who correlated existing information with hieroglyphs found in the structure known as the Temple of the Jaguar.

Because the majority of Maya texts were destroyed by Spanish conquistadors during the colonial era, most contemporary discoveries are made through the analysis of hieroglyphics found on surviving stone facades and stelae. 

Though great strides have been made in the deciphering of Maya hieroglyphs, incomplete records and gaps in knowledge continue to present challenges. The last couple of decades have seen a boom in discoveries, fueled in part by technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, which are able to correlate data at a far greater rate. 

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, INAH — Mexico’s national institute for history and archaeology — has reported that Chichen Itza received approximately 18,000 visitors between September and November.

Though that number may sound large, before the pandemic the archaeological site was attracting approximately 7,000 visitors per day.

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.