Chicanná is an archaeological site in the south of the Mexican state of Campeche, within the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve.
The site gets its name from its most famous building, the House of the Serpent Mouth. This temple is widely acknowledged to be the best-preserved Monster of the Earth facade temple in the entirety of Mesoamerica. Other great examples of this type of architecture can be found at other sites in the region including Hochob and Santa Rosa Xtampak.
Like several other sites in the Río Bec region, Chicanná was first settled sometime in the 4th century BCE, but reached its zenith during the classical period in the 4th century CE. Given its proximity just three kilometers away, it is likely that Chicanná was a dependency of the powerful city of Becán.
Chicanná was first studied in 1966 by the archaeologist Jack Eaton, who documented the site’s core and mapped out its seven principal structures.
Though Chicanná is often thought of as one of the sites which best exemplifies Río Bec architecture, it is important to keep in mind that elements representing other styles are also present — namely Puuc and Chenes.
Unlike the large city of Becán, the city of Chicanná was quite small and had structures of relatively modest size. But don’t let that give you the impression that Chicanná is less worthy of interest, as it possesses some of the most architecturally beautiful and unique structures in the Maya world.
As you make your way into Chicanná through the thick vegetation, it is likely that the first structure you will notice is the richly adorned, multi-level Structure XX. The entrance to this spectacular temple features a zoomorphic facade molded out of stucco, narrow exterior stairways, as well as interconnecting internal chambers.
Chicanná’s Structure I is one of the site’s best examples of Rìo Bec architecture and the ancient city’s largest temple. The central part of this single-story structure has six rooms arranged in two rows of three. It is flanked by two large towers which during the classical age would have likely resembled those found at sites such as Dzibilnocac or El Tabasqueño.
Like many of the temples at the site, Structure VI also has a zoomorphic facade, though it is considerably less elaborate than examples found elsewhere, but also seems to be older — hinting perhaps to a stylistic evolution.
As mentioned earlier, Structure II is widely acknowledged to be the best surviving example of zoomorphic facade Río Bec architecture. This building encloses the principal plaza to the east, which is significant given the temple’s association with the rising sun.
If you go
To visit Chicanná and other nearby sites such as Calakmul and Hormiguero it is highly advisable to spend the night in one of the region’s hotels or campgrounds, near the town of Xpujil. Though roads in this part of Campeche are fairly good, keep in mind that these are some of the most remote archaeological sites in the country, so fill up on gas often and make sure to always bring enough water.
The entrance fee is 65 pesos from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. On Sunday admittance is free for Mexican nationals and foreign residents of Mexico with ID.