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Site name: Coba Site volume and author reference
Location and Access
Principal Investigations
Notes on the Ruins
References Cited


LOCATION AND ACCESS The ruins of Coba lie 44 km northwest of Tulum, in the State of Quintana Roo, Mexico. The geographical coordinates of Grupo Coba, the centralgroup within this extensive site, are North 19° 29.6’ and West 87° 43.7’. The archaeological zone is reached by a two-kilometer branch from the asphalt road connecting Tulum with Nuevo X-Can on the Valladolid to Cancún highway. For many years, a road conveniently leading from Chemax to Coba has been marked on some road maps; alas, it was imaginary. But recently, construction of an actual highway linking those towns has started. It may be noted that in keeping with the policy of this work (based on the fact that accents are unnecessary in Maya languages), all names of Maya origin applied to archaeological sites, rather than towns, remain unaccented.


The first mention of Coba in print is due to John Lloyd Stephens (1843, vol. 2, pp. 340, 341). In 1842, Stephens, with his companions Frederick Catherwood and Samuel Cabot, had set out from Chichen Itza heading east,Tulum being their intended destination. On their way, the cura of Chemax showed them a report describing his parish, in which it was stated that at a distance of eight leagues and near one of three lakes, there lay a ruined city named Coba. In it was a building that the Indians called the Monjas, whichconsisted of various ranges of two stories, all roofed with arches finished with masonry of rough stone, the size of the rooms being six square yards.The floors were intact, and on the walls of one second-story room were painted figures in various attitudes. From that building there was a calzada, or paved road, ten or twelve yards wide, running–and here was the only serious error–towards the southeast to a terminus that had not been established, but some argued that it went in the direction of Chichen Itza.

For once, Stephens chose not to follow up an enticing lead, perhaps for lack of a guide with firsthand knowledge of the site; besides, his goal was Tulum, and he was worried that his worn shoe leather might not carry him even that far.

Another forty years would pass before a visitor seriously interested in Coba was to reach the site. This was Juan Peón Contreras (or Contreras Elizalde as he also styled himself), who was then director of the Museo de Yucatán (Millet 1988). He made the arduous journey in September 1882, and is now remembered for the four naive pen-and-ink sketches that he made at the ruins (prints made from them exist in the Peabody Museum and in the collection of Raúl Pavón Abreu in Campeche).

Nine years later, Teobert Maler visited Coba. The legacy of his two-day visit is a description written in Spanish (Maler 1932 and 1944), plus a single surviving print of his photograph of the temple on top of Structure C-l (Benavides 1981b, fig. 19).

The next visitor of consequence was Thomas Gann, M.D., an amateur archaeologist and writer of successful popular books wherein he described his adventures and discoveries among Maya ruins. In February 1926, while serving as an honorary member of the Carnegie Institution of Washington (CIW) staff working at Chichen Itza, Gann took time off to visit Coba, accompanied by E. L. Crandall, a photographer employed by the CIW. In his next book he would describe many features of the ruins for the first time and publish sketches of three hieroglyphic tablets found while journeying along the sacbe, or ancient roadway (Gann 1926, pp. 111-113). Photographs of these tablets and three others were later published by Alfonso Villa Rojas (see below).

In describing the ruins upon his return to Chichen Itza, Gann spoke of the large mounds he had sighted, but not visited for lack of time, lying to the northeast of the main group. It was to examine these that Alfred Kidder and Eric Thompson went for a two-day inspection of the site in March. Two months later Thompson was again at Coba, forming with Jean Charlot the Third CIW Expedition. On this trip their guide, Carmen Chai, showed them the Macanxoc Group, a discovery that led to the departure of the Fourth CIW Expedition, since Sylvanus Morley wanted Thompson to show him the new stelae (Morley 1926, pp. 274-277).

In February 1929, the Fifth CIW Expedition briefly visited Coba, consisting only of Harry Pollock and field assistants. A year later, again in February, Pollock returned with Thompson for a three-week sojourn, the latter accompanied by his wife on their honeymoon. In July of the same year Pollock was back in Coba for two weeks, accompanied by Gustav Strömsvik.

In 1932 H. B. Roberts opened a number of trenches in Group B to collect sherds (Brainerd 1958, p. 10).

None of these expeditions to Coba lasted more than three weeks–most of them only a matter of days–yet the amount of information compiled and presented in A Preliminary Study of the Ruins of Cobá, Quintana Roo, Mexico (Thompson et al. 1932) is truly impressive.

Over the next forty years, additions to this body of knowledge were few. In 1933 Villa Rojas, workmg for the CIW, confirmed Thompson’s speculation that the destination of Sacbe 1 might be Yaxuna. Starting at Yaxuna with six helpers, he plotted the 100-km course of the causeway, noting features along the way, including SIX hieroglyphic tablets spaced at roughly kilometer intervals over a stretch lying between 15 and 10km west of Coba (Villa Rojas 1934, pp. 206, 207).

In July 1937, the young E. W. Andrews IV spent two weeks at the site with two friends. They discovered Stela 24 (Andrews 1938), and a shaft perforated with a square hole, later designated by Navarrete as Stela 26 (Navarrete et al. 1979, p. 69). They followed Sacbe 15 to its terminus, a large structure in a group which Andrews named Kitamna, and they discovered Sacbe 17.

In 1938, Cyrus Lundell leading the CIW Botanical Expedition to Quintana Roo (Lundell 1938), discovered Stela 28. He also mentioned an interesting find in one of the plazas: an orange grove, apparently long established, in the shade of high ramón forest. This confirms a report of orange trees at Coba in the 1890s (Folan 1983, p. 3). At the time of the Thompson’s and Pollock’s visits there was no resident population, merely a seasonally occupied chiclero camp, but thatched houses are shown on the lakeshore in one of the Contreras’s drawings. The “so-called old Spanish walls” reported in the site by Pollock (1930, 24 February) may confirm the existence of an earlier occupation in historic times, although it is conceivable he mistook pre-Columbian boundary walls for colonial or nineteenth century dry-stone walls.

Lundell also describes a vast area of land to the west of Coba as desolate, the result of annual dry-season fires for at least the six preceding years, with a few remaining fire-resistant species attesting to old high forest. The mantle of soil had eroded, leaving barren stretches of pitted white limestone. East of Coba, fire destruction had been less severe. He mentions, too, the new "emergency airfield," which extended along the north side of Grupo Coba. It was almost certainly built for Pan-American Airways when their long range service into Latin America was being developed; a similar emergency field was maintained, complete with drums of aviation gasoline, at La Libertad, Peten, until the 1960s.

In 1948 two graduate students in archaeology, William and Michael Coe, visited Coba, intent on seeking the terminus of Sacbe 15. They were unaware, unfortunately, that Andrews had already reported it. In an editor’s note following their report (Coe and Coe 1949) Thompson blames himself as editor for failing to detect the repetition of prior work in their contribution, while excusing the young authors for ignorance of a paper published in a foreign journal. But the Coes reported the previously unknown Sacbes 18 and 19 and mapped the large mound at the terminus of Sacbe 17, which they named Pech Mul (they were unlucky again in failing to complete their circuit of its platform, or they might have discovered the sacbe leading out of it, no. 21).

In 1972 the Instituto Nacional de Antropologi;a e Historia began a program of investigation and later of consolidation at Coba, in response to the planned hotel development at Cancún, and at the urgings of Infratur, government-backed agency charged with developing the infrastructure for tourism; disappointingly, no sister agency was created to support archaeology (it might have been Infradig).

The first phase was carried out by Carlos Navarrete, Maria José Con, and Alejandro Martinez Muriel in September and October 1972 (Navarrete et al. 1979). Their mission was to survey the actual state of the site, establish boundaries for the portion to be declared an archaeological zone, and plan the pathways and cleared areas. The boundaries of the park that was later created are illustrated by Alfredo Barrera Rubio (1976, p. 9).

Expectations of new discoveries were borne out when El Cono (StructureD-6 ) and Grupo Las Pinturas came to light, among other features. In the same year, much of Grupo Coba was cleared on the instructions of Raúl Pavón Abreu; not even its tall ramón trees were spared.

In 1975 a branch road from the asphalted highway being built from Tulum to Nuevo X-Can reached Coba (fortunately the road engineers heeded objections by archaeologists and abandoned their original plan of incorporating Sacbe 3 in the roadbed). A project camp was built in 1973, and in 1974 the Proyecto Coba proper, under the auspices of the Centro Regional del Sureste of INAH and directed by Norberto González Crespo, was able to begin its operations. The first field director was Piedad Peniche, followed in 1975 by Antonio Benavides. During the three-year existence of the project, portions of the site were cleared and structures excavated and consolidated, (the Castillo and the Pinturas Group by Peniche; the Iglesia by Benavides and Jaime Garduño; El Cono by Benavides and Fernando Robles); the sacbes were investigated by Folan and by Benavides, who added 26 to the list of 19 previously known; the ceramics from test pits and trenches were studied by Robles (1980); and Jaime Garduño (1979) surveyed two transects of the site, one of 10 km north-south and another of 5 km east-west.

A separate but contemporary project was the Proyecto Cartográfico Arqueológico de Coba under the join direction of William J. Folan and George Stuart of the National Geographic Society, which funded it (Folan and Stuart 1977 and Folan et al. 1983); this is further described below.

In 1975 an independent study of wall paintings at the site was made by Marine Fettweiss (1980, 1988).

In 1989 investigation and consolidation of the secondary stairway of the Castillo was carried out by Luis Leyra Guillermo, and in 1992 INAH inaugurated a new program of clearing and consolidating the structures forming the eastern side of the plaza of Grupo Coba, this under the direction of Alejandro Martinez Muriel.

In about 1990 coring of sediments in Lago Coba was carried out, with determination of the limnological effect of human occupation in the drainage area as one of its purposes. At a depth corresponding to about 1900 B.P., highly eutrophic conditions were evident, following agricultural disturbance indicated by a high level of maize pollen (Whitmore et al. 1996, p. 278).

The record of sculpture presented in this fascicle is based on work by Eric von Euw during visits to the site in 1975, 1976, and 1978. His work was supplemented by Ian Graham in 1990, 1992, 1994, and 1996, these brief visits having been chiefly devoted to mapping.

NOTES ON THE RUINS The terrain in and around Coba is strikingly flat, although punctuated by some slight rises. One of the more pronounced of these was chosen as the site of the Nohoch Mul Group, and across Lago Macanxoc the Uitzil Mul Group stands on another ridge. Lesser rises support some of the outlying groups forming the termini of sacbes. The area is notable for four permanent lakes, which probably owe their formation to the pores of the rock having been sealed by organic matter. There are areas of swamp (akalche), and cenotes, and at least one rock pool (haltun).

The site consists of about a dozen groups, each connected to another by a sacbe. Over 40 of these internal sacbes have been identified, with lengths ranging from 6 m to 6 km (Benavides 1981a); two others lead to more distant sites.

The heart of the site in Classic times was certainly Grupo Coba (Group B). This is a very densely packed assemblage of temple mounds and large, range-type structures, many of them contiguous and forming courts. Among them stand two tall pyramids, Structures B-1 and B-22 (CIW structure-numbers, originally printed in roman numerals, are here, elsewhere in the Corpus, given arabic numerals). Structure B-1, La Iglesia, faces west across a raised forecourt to the main plaza; it is a nine-tiered, Late Classic pyramid, with the addition of a small Postclassic temple on top, reached by a divided stairway. Close to the north side of La Iglesia there is a ball court, unusual in having a playing alley provided with only a vestigial bench and, as recent work has shown, panels depicting prisoners set into the sloping walls as markers.

The second temple, Structure 22, is ruinous, retaining no architectural Detail in its upper half. A third temple of a very different description is seen m Structure B-30, apparently a flat-roofed building with a triple doorway supported by two piers formed of stacked, almost square stone blocks about .05 m thick, 1 m wide, and 0.85 m deep. The approach to this must have been impressive: devotees had to ascend a very wide and shallow stairway, cross a wide court, ascend a second shallow stairway, and cross another wide court before ascending a third and steeper stairway.

Several palaces within this complex of buildings deserve mention. Structures B-28 and B-33 were of two stories, the former also enclosing a small court; another palace, Structure B-36, with a view of the lake, contained nine or ten rooms; and Structure B-38 is notable for a room 3.95 m wide and still partially vaulted. Its sloping upper zone above the cornice and details of its interior openings are reminiscent of Palenque.

At the southwest extremity of Group B is found a sascabera with a small building at its western edge facing an even smaller building built on the opposite lip of the rock cap; the latter contains a tiny shrine, and beneath it a narrow, vaulted tunnel leads back into the excavated space below.

For further information on the architecture of Group B, the reader is referred to Pollock’s detailed description (Thompson et al. 1932, pp. 28-74) and to the summaries of information gained by excavation supplied by Benavides (1981a, pp. 30-54) and by Folan et al. (1983, pp. 65-71).

The outlook from Group B to the south is across Lago Macanxoc to the outlying groups known as Uitzil Mul and Domingo Falcon. To the north and east the view, if unencumbered by forest, would embrace the beginning of Sacbe 3, leading north to San Pedro, with, to the right of it, an extensive level area or plaza sometimes referred to as la gran nivelación. Folan somewhat confusingly translates this as "The Great Platform" (Folan et al. 1983, p. 51), and includes within it the Nohoch Mul Group, even though this stands on considerably higher ground. Across this space runs another sacbe clearly originating from Group B, Sacbe 4, which runs northeast to Group C (Grupo Nohoch Mul). Other sacbes run west and south, passing between Lagos Coba and Macanxoc.

La gran nivelación is bounded on the east by Sacbe 8, and a wedge-shaped portion of it lying between Sacbes 8 and 4, and between Group C (or Grupo Nohoch Mul) and Lago Macanxoc, has been designated as Group D. Scattered within its southern half are a number of substantial structures, including Las Pinturas, a Tulum-style temple 8 m high, embellished with wall paintings, not only within it, but also outside above the lintel of the main entrance (Mural 1).With their backs close to Sacbe 8 are three temples in a row, each with low flanking platforms, while across the plaza, a similar temple complex looks across to them, its back close to Sacbe 4.

At the southeast corner of this plaza, Sacbe 8 forms a junction with the beginning of Sacbe 9, which, at 22 m, is much the widest sacbe at Coba. It leaves the plaza in a southeasterly direction to reach the important Group A (or Grupo Macanxoc), a platform about 200 m long, built on a ridge of high ground, with its surface 4 m above the surrounding swampy terrain. On it were constructed temples and other buildings, the highest being Structure A-I, about 12m tall. Within this group are found Stelae 1 through 8, all of them, perhaps, having been reset in the Postclassic period, and placed within shrines that probably had thatched roofs.

As to the northern half of Group D, this contains a second ball court, Structure D-13; we may suppose that here, too, the prisoner panels now lying in its alley were originally embedded in its sloping sides. East of it, the substantial Structures D-14 to -18 form Court C, while north of it there is a plaza about 150 m square.

This plaza, from its position, must have formed an important nexus in antiquity. The long course of Sacbe 1 to Yaxuna begins from within an opening at its southwestern comer; Sacbe 6 (almost collinear with Sacbe 1) heads for Chan Mul from a point about 100 m east of the plaza’s northeast corner; and Sacbe 8, the third-longest sacbe at Coba, takes off for Kucican from a point near its southeast corner. The crossing of these sacbe routes may have determined the sitting of Structure D-6, known alternatively as Xaibe, "crossing of roads," or El Cono, in reference to its unusual conical form.

Proceeding farther to the northeast, one comes to Structures D-1 and D-2, designated C-X and C-XII by Thompson et al. (1932) (see section on nomenclature below). Structure D-1 is a colonnaded Late Classic building with an impressive stairway, at the foot of which stands Stela 20, the best preserved of Coba stelae. To the west of it, Stela 21 is set on the north side of a small mound, Structure D-2.

From these structures the terrain rises 6 m (thus leaving Group D and la gran nivelación) to the foot of Structure C-1, known as El Castillo (also as Ixmoja). This is a very large Late Classic pyramid of seven tiers with rounded and inset corners and a wide stairway ascending to a platform 40 m high. On it stands a Postclassic temple with three niches in its façade containing Diving Gods of modeled stucco. Various additions to this pyramid were made later, including a small temple built against its south side immediately to the west of the main stairway. This, a single-room, vaulted structure with three entrances, was provided with its own stairway running beside the principal one. Within the building was found the lower portion of a stela carved on both sides (Stela 30), obviously reset since the inscribed rear face, as found, was close against the wall.

About 50 m west of El Castillo, and set back from it by a like amount, stands the enormous bulk of Structure C-7 (the Nohoch Mul itself, according to the nomenclature proposed below). This is a platform 17 m high, 125 m wide, and 115 m deep, with a terrace nearly 10m wide in front but much narrower along the sides (if it continues there at all). A single wide stairway gives access to the top, where only one standing structure is found; this is a building 22 m long, which stands near the front and slightly off axis. Foundations for buildings of perishable materials line the east and west edges. The great size of this platform suggests the possibility of Preclassic origin.

Attached to the south side of this platform are three long mounds, Structures C-4 to -6. Close to the easternmost of these, on its west side, there is a ring of dressed stones with an external diameter of 4.5 m. Two similar features at Coba have been reported: a "circular stone basin about 8 m diameter with stepped sides" on the western side of the terrace at Kucican (Pollock 1930, 4 March), and another of unspecified diameter on the terrace of Pech Mul (Coe and Coe 1949, p. 30).

Structure C-6 is built of megalithic masonry and seems to overlie an extension of the southeast-heading portion of Sacbe 27 first noticed by Graham in 1997; this portion may be called Sacbe 27A. Another previously unrecorded sacbe (Sacbe 46) connects the Castillo with a small acropolis lying southeast of it.

About 100 m from the southwest corner of the Nohoch Mul is a roughly circular haltun about 50 m in diameter, with seven steps measuring 1.4 m wide cut into the rock on its south side.

Along the east side of Nohoch Mul runs a range of vaulted rooms, and from its northeastern corner an impressive structure consisting of three stories of vaulted rooms (some consolidated by Benavides in the 1980s) stands out to the east. A terrace edge running east from this defines a plaza, and further building along this edge may have been contemplated. Within this plaza various structures of no great size are found; one, a single vaulted chamber, conceivably a council chamber, deserves mention for its great interior width of 4.30 m. Perhaps only at Calakmul has a wider vault been found. Roughly constructed walls connecting some of these structures may have been built for defensive purposes.


GROUPS: The plan published here shows a division of the core area into six groups, of which A, B, and C resemble those of Thompson et al. (1932), while D, E, and F follow Navarrete (Navarrete et al. 1979, unnumbered plan), except that their E and F have been interchanged so as to put Groups D and E next to each other, as would seem logical. The numbering of structures within Groups A, B, and C follows that of Thompson et al. with minor changes and additions (and conversion into arabic numerals), while in Group D Navarrete’s numbering has been followed. In Groups E and F no numbering of structures has ever been published.

There is an obvious lack of agreement regarding the common names of the better-known structures. In the document that the cura showed Stephens in Chemax, the term "Monjas" may have been applied to Structure B-1 in Grupo Coba and the complex of buildings surrounding it. Gann invented the name "Nohku" for that structure. According to Pollock (in Thompson et al. 1932, p. 31) it was locally known as the Castillo. Benavides (1981a, fig. 9) calls it La Iglesia, a name certainly concordant with the continuing practice of worship before Stela 11 by Catholic cobaeños, who regard it as an image of the Virgin Mary (Maas 1977, p. 3), perhaps syncretistically blended with the goddess Chiribias (Folan et al. 1983, p.71).

As for the Nohoch Mul Group, Pollock in his field notes (Pollock 1930) refers to the Great Platform (Structure C-7) as the Monjas, and in his published account (Thompson et al. 1932, p. 81) mentions that here again the Great Temple, Structure C-1, was locally known as the Castillo. Peniche and Folan (1978, p. 54) call it Ixmoja, a mayanized version of Las Monjas, Navarrete (Navarrete et al. 1979, P: 29) draws a distinction between Nohoch Mul and la gran plataforma, from which one deduces that he regarded the pyramid itself as the Nohoch Mul. Benavides agrees (1981a, p. 54).

So there is utter confusion. But when it is remembered that the meaning of Nohoch Mul is "great mound," rather than "tall mound," this term does seem more appropriate for the Great Platform, for this, volumetrically, is more than twice the size of Structure C-1 and surely remarkable enough to deserve a proper name of its own. Accordingly, on the site plan presented here, "Nohoch Mul" is the name given to Structure C-7, the Great Platform, in the hope that it will gain acceptance, while Structure C-11 is El Castillo, and Structure B-1 La Iglesia.

MONUMENTS: In his description of the monuments of Coba, Thompson numbered the known sculptured stelae in a series 1 to 23 (Thompson et al. 1932, pp. 131-184). Then, rather oddly, he applied the number 24 to an altar bearing faint traces of carving. Navarrete (Navarrete et al. 1979, pp. 64-73) follows Thompson’s numeration, with the sequence Stela 23, Altar 24, Stela 25 (Andrews’s discovery), Stela 26, then two panels denominated Stelae 27 and 28. It has been thought preferable to apply new numbers to carved stelae, beginning at no. 24, and to place panels and other pieces in their own categories. The perforated shaft, Navarrete’s Stela 26 (Navarrete et al. 1979, pl. 51), is here regarded as Stela 33. As for Altar 24, it may as well retain that designation.

The discovery in 1996 of five sculptures set into the playing surfaces of the Coba Group ball court (Structure B-17) has given rise to doubts concerning the proper designation not only of them, but also of the sculptures found in the Structure D-13 ball court. The latter included an obvious stela (Stela 27), some panels depicting captives, and Panel 4, which, in view of the inscription round its edge, could not have been made to be set flush in masonry. But among the sculptures lately found in the Coba Group court are four depicting captives, and one very tall panel, more like a stela than any previously known ball-court marker. Possibly, then, the captive panels in both courts were indeed made as ball-court markers; or on the other hand, perhaps all the sculptures found in both ball courts were taken from other settings for reuse as ball-court markers. Faced with this problem, we have taken the easy way out, leaving the D-13 sculptures with their original designations and giving panel designations to all five B-17 sculptures.

SACBES: There is also a lack of agreement about the numbering of sacbes. Thompson and Pollock knew of sixteen and numbered them accordingly; Andrews added Sacbe 17, and the Coes Sacbes 18 and 19. Navarrete discovered Sacbe 20 and showed it on his plans (Navarrete et al. 1979, unnumbered pages). Subsequently, Benavides published his investigation of sacbes in 1981, describing a total of forty-five. In it he preserved the existing numeration for Sacbes 1 through 18, in conformity with his announced principle (Benavides 1981a, p. 68), but for some reason (its peripheral location, perhaps) he renamed Thompson’s no. 2 as Sacbe 27, transferring the number 2. to Navarrete’s Sacbe 20. In regard to these changes, confusion may possibly be lessened by reverting to the earlier numeration. Thus Thompson’s Sacbe 2 will once again be its old self; the number that Benavides to it (27) can now be applied to the "bypass" round Nohoch Mul, which Benavides called Sacbe 20; and this number can be restored to Navarrete’s sacbe.

The problems do not end there, however. Folan also made changes to the numeration (some are given in the table below). Since it is difficult to estimate the priority and relative contributions made by the Folan and Benavides teams to research on the sacbes, the fact that the only existing full description of the sacbe system is that of Benavides makes it clear that his numeration, as modified by the small changes already mentioned, is the most convenient to follow.

Among other discoveries, Benavides found that Thompson’s Sacbe 14, instead of leading straight from Stela B-2 to Nuc Mul, terminates at Pech Mul, a short distance beyond a junction where the sacbe that does lead to Nuc Mul branches off. Retaining 14 as the number of the sacbe leading to Nuc Mul, he designated the one connecting Stela B-2 with Pech Mul as Sacbe 21.

It should also be noted that Benavides apparently found that Sacbe 10, shown by Thompson et al. (1932) and by Folan (Folan et al. 1983) as extending from the eastern end of Grupo Macanxoc to Sacakal, does not exist. A different sacbe does take off towards the southeast, but from a little to the west of Macanxoc, and ends at Pakchen or Mulucbaob (as named by Folan and Benavides, respectively). To this Benavides applied the then vacant designation, Sacbe 10.

Thompson Coes Navarrete Folan Benevides Graham
2 2 2 --- 27 2
10 10 10 10 --- ---
--- --- --- 30 10 10
16 16 16 24 16 16
--- 19 19 19 --- ---
--- --- 20 27 2 20
--- --- --- --- 20 27



Since the plan published here owes many of its details to plans produced by earlier workers, these will be described briefly. First, admiration must be expressed for Pollock’s compass-and-tape plan of Grupo, which his field notes show him to have accomplished in the space of about a week, while at the same time taking notes on architecture. Graham found his plan very helpful while making his own rough-and-ready survey, which owes nothing directly to Pollock’s. Graham’s has its own deficiencies, some of which are attributable to the thick secondary growth resulting from felling of the forest cover in 1972 (one may regret that the opportunity was not taken at that time to survey the group under favorable conditions).

A uniform survey of the entire central zone of the site has never been attempted by a single entity. To do this had been one of the original goals of the Proyecto Cartográfico Arqueológico de Coba (Folan and Stuart 1977), but the magnitude of the task and other difficulties that arose, among them insufficiency of funds, eventually confined their work to a settlement-pattern survey. The site was divided into thirteen zones; of these, four were mapped and seven others studied in some degree (Folan et al. 1983, fig. 1.3). The mapped zones are:

• A sector extending from Grupo Coba to Xmakaba (also known as Los Altares), and defined to east and west by Sacbes 20 and 3.

• An area west of Lago Coba, limited north and south by Sacbes 1 and 24.

• An area bounded on the east by Sacbe 8 as far as Kucican, and on the west by Sacbe 15 as far as Kitamna, and thence by a north-south line.

• An area bounded on the north by Sacbe 6 and on the south by Sacbe 10 as far as its terminus.

The total area of these four zones amounts to about 5 percent of Greater Coba. In Zone I the record of minor surface features appears to be very thorough, whereas in the other zones fewer details of miniature sacbes, walls, etc. seem to have been registered.

Overall, the greatest contribution to our composite plan of Coba came from plans drawn by Benavides and Robles (Benavides 1981a). That published by Navarrete, Con, and Martinez (1979, unnumbered fold-out) was heavily relied upon in the area between Grupo Las Pinturas and El Cono, while details of various groups were taken from Folan et al. (1983) and Garduño’s transects (1979). To all of these colleagues our indebtedness and gratitude are acknowledged.

At the outset, the principal aim in defining the area of the site to be included in the plan published here was to keep it to the minimum needed for showing the loci of all the monuments; but then the limits were expanded a little to allow a fuller representation of the Grupo Nohoch Mul. Apart from Grupo Coba, the areas into which Graham ventured with transit, or with compass and tape, have included various sacbes within those limits, most of the Grupo Nohoch Mul, the north and south villages of Coba, and Grupo Dzib Mul. Partial surveys were also made of Uitzil Mul and Grupo Maya. Grupo Chumuc Mul was not examined at all. In our plan, features copied from the sources mentioned above are distinguished by breaks in the line at 5-mm intervals.


Stelae 1-6, 8-13, 15-23, 26-32

Lintel 1

Panels 1-17

Ball-court sculptures 1, 2

Mural 1

Miscellaneous 1-3

Fragments 1-3



1. Stela 7 retains no trace of carving.

2. Stela 14 is badly shattered and weathered.

3. Stela 24 was found by E. W. Andrews IV, but a search for it in 1992 was unsuccessful. The sketch of it in Andrews’s report (1938, pp. 34, 35) is reproduced here. Navarrete et al. (1979, p. 69) listed this piece as Stela 25.

4. Stela 25, reported by E. W. Andrews IV (1938, pp. 44) and listed as Stela 26 by Navarrete et al. (1979, p. 69), was apparently uncarved.

5. Stela 33 is the perforated shaft listed as Stela 26 by Navarrete et al. (1979, p. 69).

6. Panels 13-17 were found in 1996 set into the playing surfaces of the ball court, Structure B-17. 7. Fragments 1-3 are carved blocks found at Dzib Mul (Benavides 1981b, fig. 47).


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