The remains of the ancient Maya can be found just about everywhere in Yucatán, including within its capital and largest city, Mérida.
But Nohoch Caucel is a different beast, covering an area larger than Valladolid, Yucatán’s second-largest city.
If you are wondering why you have never heard of this massive site before, it is because it is not an archaeological site per se, but rather a densely packed section of northwestern Mérida which happens to be home to the largest concentration of prehispanic structures in the city.
The name Nohoch Caucel is also not one you will find in guidebooks, as it was coined (by yours truly) to refer to this area, with Caucel being the name of a village within Mérida’s municipal boundaries, as well as a suburb and the word Nohoch — which translates as large in the Yucatec-Maya language.
Though not widely accepted (yet) and this area still needs much research, the term is helpful as, when considered in its totality, it contains many of the hallmarks of imposing Maya cities such as a constrained geography, extensive Sac-Bé (Mayan road) networks, as well as ceremonial, residential and administrative complexes.
One of Nohoch Caucel’s most stunning features is the Mesoamerican Ballcourt of Xanila. Amazingly, this ballcourt dates back to the 8th century BCE, making it one of the oldest in the Mesoamerican world.
The archaeological complex known as Xaman Susulá also dates to the preclassical period. Research suggests that at its height, the area would have been home to thousands of structures over four distinct construction periods.
One of the few discrete structures still observable today is referred to in the archaeological record as Structure 1729.
That said, the remains of a handful of other structures, including stone walls and several stone artifacts, can also be seen.
Just as ancient are the artificial platforms found in Soblonke Park, one of the most undervalued of its kind in the city.
Soblonke is home to many structures with construction dates that extend back to the 9th century. Given their relatively low elevation, it is widely believed that these monuments were stone foundations on top of which structures made of perishable materials were constructed.
In the blocks surrounding Soblonque, one can see even more archaeological remains in small open-air parks, including Los Laureles.
In the area, there are also a handful of roundabouts like Glorieta de Jade, where archaeological remains are visible, though they often go unnoticed. This is also the case within several roundabouts all over the city, especially in San Pedro Cholul.
Adjacent to a high school in the same area is the site known simply as Dzonot, which in Yucatec Maya translates as chasm, likely after the number of cenotes in the area.
During my last visit to Dzonot, I spoke with a handful of students from the school who expressed interest in my photographing of the site but mentioned that they had no idea that these were, in fact, of archaeological interest.
Another central point of interest within the scope of what we have defined as Nohoch Caucel is the Archaeological region of Kalax.
Though the site is badly damaged, stone tools, fragments of walls, and other architectural features can be made out for those with a keen eye.
The total amount of archaeological remains in the Nohoch Caucel is far too large to cover in a single article. In the future, expect a more complete guide (maybe in print, hint hint) that goes further in depth.