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  • Altar 1
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  • Stela 1
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  • Stela 2
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  • Stela 3
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  • Stela 4
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  • Stela 5
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  • Stela 6
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  • Stela 7
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  • Stela 8
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  • Stela 9
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  • Stela 10
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  • Stela 12
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  • Stela 13
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  • Stela 15
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  • Stela 16
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  • Stela 17
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  • Stela 18
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  • Stela 19
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  • Stela 20
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  • Stela 21
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  • Stela 22
Site name: Uaxactun Site volume and author reference
Location and Access
Principal Investigations
Notes on the Ruins
References Cited

LOCATION AND ACCESS Uaxactun lies near the foot of an extensive belt of contorted karst terrain, which runs through north-central Peten in an arc bulging toward the southeast. In places, the edge of this hilly region forms a steep escarpment overlooking large areas of bajo; some 50 km west of Uaxactun the escarpment becomes a precipice along the foot of which runs the nascent Rio San Pedro.

Near Uaxactun, a seasonal stream comes out of the hills to pursue a rather ill-defined course along the foot of the hills, tending a little east of north, later becoming a tributary of the Rio Azul. Uaxactun thus stands near the watershed between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.

Groups A, B, and C of the ruins were constructed on a ridge that rises to a maximum height of about 40 m above the plain. Other groups occupy less elevated ground some 800 m to the southeast. Low ground in between has been cleared as an airfield, on both sides of which a village has grown up. The aguada which supplies much of the water for the village (as it must have in antiquity) lies at the foot of the slope up to Group A. This aguada, however, has been known to dry out completely, most recently in 1978.

During the Carnegie Institution's many seasons of work at the site, the staff used to ride in with mule trains from El Cayo, a four-days' journey; E1 Cayo, in what was then British Honduras, was reached by motorboat from Belize, ascending the river of the same name.

Air service to Uaxactun, established in the late 1930s with Trimotors for the purpose of bringing out chicle, largely supplanted other means of reaching Uaxactun for the next forty years, until a road from Flores was driven through to Tikal. with a track suitable for four-wheel-drive vehicles opened up from there to Uaxactun. This track was greatly improved by grading in 1984. Another road now leads from Flores via San Andres, EI Zotz, and Santa Cruz; though hardly more than a logging road, it provides an alternative route to Uaxactun now that air service to the village has ceased. This road continues past Uaxactun to Dos Lagunas.

On the 1:500 000 map of the Central Lowlands area, published at the end of Volume 3 of this series, a site is shown to the east of Uaxactun with the name Ramonalito. At the time of my visit to those ruins in 1978, I was unaware that a note by A. Ledyard Smith on the same site, under the name El Paraiso, had been published in Ricketson and Ricketson (1937, pp. 295, 296). The latter name has therefore been used in the accompanying map of the area.

PRINCIPAL INVESTlGATIONS AT THE SITE The ruins were discovered by Sylvanus Morley in May 1916. Among his chiclero guides, the aguada and campsite near the ruins were known at that time as San Leandro, but only a few years later as Bambonal. Aware of the impermanence of such names, Morley at once gave the ruins their present name ("Eight-stone") in recognition of Stela 9, the first Baktun 8 monument to be discovered.

Morley's first visit was brief, and it was not until 1924 that serious investigation of the site began. Acting for the Carnegie Institution, Frans Blom spent two months making a plane-table survey (helped at first by Monroe Amsden) and taking notes on architecture and sculpture (Blom 1924). The plan he so rapidly made formed the basis of the one published by the Ricketsons (1937).

In January 1927, a five-year contract to excavate having been granted the Carnegie Institution, the first season of excavations began under the leadership of Oliver Ricketson. The daunting logistical problems faced by the expedition were undoubtedly eased by the commencement a year or two earlier of large-scale chicle gathering in the region through which their supply route ran. The wide tracks cut by the P. W. Shufeldt Company for their mule trains and the regular traffic of these must have helped considerably.

Largely because of Blom's suggestion that Structure E-7 and the three buildings on a mound to the east of it might have functioned as an observatory (Blom 1925), this group became the initial focus of activity. Interest in Group E was sustained with the discovery of E-7 sub, followed by excavations in the plaza in an attempt to establish a chronology of floors, stela settings, caches, etc., in the course of which Mamom pottery was first encountered.

After 1930, attention was turned to other parts of the site. By far the greatest effort was concentrated upon Structure A-S, a large palace complex that proved to have a long and complicated building sequence. No attempt, however, can be made here to review the many excavations in this and other structures or their results; they have been fully published by Ricketson and Ricketson (1937) and A. L. Smith (1950), with studies of the ceramics by R. E. Smith (1955) and Smith and Gifford (1966), and of the artifacts by Kidder (1947). The principal excavators during the course of the whole undertaking were O. G. Ricketson, A. L. Smith, R. E. Smith, and E. M. Shook. Other operations of particular interest in the present context were the excavation of stela settings by A. L. Smith starting in 1928, the remapping of Groups A and B by Shook in 1935, Morley's study of the sculpture in 1928, and records made by the Smith brothers of monuments discovered after that date-the whole body of sculpture being published in The Inscriptions of Peten (Morley 1937-38). Lastly there was the excavation of Structure B-l3, which resulted in the discovery of mural paintings. As is so often the case, this occurred near the end of the final season of work at the site in 1937; fortunately, however, there was time for the artist Antonio Tejeda F. to be summoned from Guatemala to make copies, as the murals have not survived.

In 1940 A. L. Smith and Shook returned to Uaxactun in order to resolve by excavation various points that had arisen during preparation of the final reports (Kidder 1940, p. 269). Shook came back to these ruins once again in 1974 for the purpose of restoring Structure E-7 sub, which had received no attention since the excavation program ended. He was assisted by volunteer workers and funds provided by Earthwatch. Since then the structure has been kept weeded by a resident guard maintained by the Guatemalan Instituto de Antropologia e Historia.

In 1978, presumably at the vernal equinox, Anthony Aveni came to the site to take fresh measurements of the critical directions defined by the Group E "solar observatory" (Aveni 1980, p. 280).

My own work of recording the sculpture anew was carried out in 1978 and 1979.

In 1982 the Tikal National Park was extended to include Uaxactun, EI Zotz, and Yaxha. Soon after, a program of restoration was begun at Uaxactun by the Instituto de Antropologfa e Historia. Structure A-18, which had suffered a partial collapse two years previously, was stabilized and partially restored, as was Structure E-10.

NOTES ON THE RUINS The setting of the ruins and the various components of them have been described in detail in the published works cited above. In the succeeding years there have naturally been changes as a sizable village grew up among them. The airfield, cleared soon after the cessation of excavations, was sited with a northeast-southwest orientation, one edge of it passing within about 100 m of Structures D-5 and D-16. Houses have been built on both sides of the airfield, extending as far as the foot of the causeway up to Group A on one side and on the other reaching the edge of the main plaza of Group D. The track leading westward between Groups Band C passes through a basin of level ground where the village burial ground is sited, before descending the north slope of the hill and crossing the arroyo. The men of the village, who are nominally engaged in the gathering of chicle and shafe palm fronds, are not entirely devoid of interest in archaeology (of a kind). In spite of this, there has not been much recent disturbance of these ruins.

A NOTE ON THE PLAN OF THE RUINS The accompanying plan was prepared from that of Blom and Amsden as emended by Ricketson and Smith, which was published in Ricketson and Ricketson 1937. Into this were inserted elements of the detailed plan of Group E from the same publication and Shook's plan of Groups A and B published in Smith 1950. Some features owe their delineation to my own measurements.

One problem in drafting this plan has been Blom's manner of representing mounds. Ideally, all the unexcavated mounds would have been inspected and redrawn according to the convention employed elsewhere in the Corpus, but the dense and thorny vegetation encouraged by forty years of firewood gathering, etc., made this course impracticable. Some of the mounds that it was possible to examine were redrawn by eye, without measurement. The mounds of Group C, which is particularly difficult to explore at present, do not seem to be plotted very accurately on this map.

As has been done previously when redrawing site plans originally published by the Carnegie Institution, the roman numerals used in them for structure numbers have been replaced by arabic for the sake of legibility and compactness. An unfortunate consequence in the case of Uaxactun is recognized: the altered appearance of the familiar A-V and E- VII sub.

NOTES 1. Stela 11, which was found lying face up and broken into several pieces,

was certainly carved but no longer shows recognizable elements of design.

  1. Only the butt fragment of Stela 24 was found by Morley (1937-38, p. 179), and it was seen to bear very faint traces of the bottom 46 cm of a glyph panel. No photograph was taken by the ClW, and recent efforts to find the piece were unavailing.
  2. Altar 2 existed as an unsculptured altar set independently. It is discussed in connection with Stela 3.
  3. Altar 3, newly designated as such, is the fragment found in the fill covering Stela 26 in Structure A-5.
  4. A stela fragment not recorded by Carnegie Institution workers was found on the embankment below the south end of Structure B-1. Because of its small size, poor condition, and lack of hieroglyphic elements, the description and illustration of Fragment 1, as it is now designated, will be limited to this note.



SITE VOL/Part Monument Side Page Pub.year Notes Peobody Number
UAXACTUN 5.2 Map 121 1984
UAXACTUN 5.2 Map of Ruins 122-123 1984
UAXACTUN 5.2 Fragment front 126 1984 drawing missing
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 1 Fragment 1, left side 133 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 2 right side 136 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 3 front 137 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 3 left side 138 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 3 right side 139 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 4 front 141 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 4 back 142 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 5 front 143 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 5 right side 145 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 5 left side 145 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 6 front 147 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 6 right side 148 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 6 left side 149 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 7 front 151 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 7 left side 152 1986 Frag. E & F 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 7 right side 152 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 9 front 155 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 9 back 157 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 10 front 159 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 10 back 159 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 12 front 161 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 13 front 163 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 14 front 165 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 14 left side 166 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 14 left side 166 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 14 left side 166 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 16 front 169 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 17 front 171 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 18 back 175 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 19 front 178 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 19 back 180 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 20 front 181 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 20 back 183 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 20 left side 184 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 20 right side 185 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 21 front 187 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 22 front 189 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 22 left side 191 1986 2004.
UAXACTUN 5.3 Stela 22 right side 191 1986 2004.


SITE (by Vol) VOL/Part Author(s)
UAXACTUN 5.2 Eric von Euw and Ian Graham, Vol 5.2, 1984
UAXACTUN 5.3 Ian Graham, Vo.l 5.3, 1986