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

A NOTE ON THE NAMES In his field notebooks (Peabody Museum Archives) R.E. Merwin, the first to describe both these sites, employed in some places the form Yokanal, and in others Ucanal, the latter being the form universally adopted since. As to Yaltutu, this spelling of a name that is applied to several places in Peten (see the Introduction to this work, p. 1:11) is the one being used in preference to Yaltitud, the version proposed and employed by Morley. Since deciding to make this change, I have found that Merwin wrote Yaltutu, or sometimes Yaltatu, in his field notes. As this very small site is clearly an outlying part of Ucanal, the two sites will be described together.

LOCATION AND ACCESS Both sites lie near the west bank of the Mopan River, just below a double bend

in its course; Ucanal lies within the elbow formed by the lower bend. The high ground on which the ruins stand is the southwestern extremity of a spur of hills ranging up to 400 m above sea level that intrudes into the otherwise rather flat basin through which the Mopan and Salsipuedes rivers flow in this region. In the channel that it has cut through these hills, the Mopan cascades over a number of rock ledges. Even below these, the river cannot be classed as navigable.

One feasible route to these ruins is from the north, as shown on the area map. The route is difficult, however, because the Salsipuedes River must be crossed, as well as an area of low ground that is flooded during the rains. Once these obstacles are overcome, the old lumber road passes through flat and sometimes stony ground, much of it corozal. Conditions on the high ground surrounding the ruins are reported to have changed since my last visit, as farmers have moved into the area.

Another approach to the ruins, which I took in 1972, was along a trail passing through EI Cruzadero, Naranjo, and Grano de Oro, and over to a shallow crossing place on the Mopan River at La Calzada; thence north to Ucanal. In recent years a road has been built that follows a rather similarand over some of its length an identical- route, but its course as shown on the area map, transferred from a semiofficial Guatemalan map, may not be accurate. The large new village, Calzada Mopan, is shown on that map about 8 km south of the position I calculate, perhaps erroneously, for the old caserio La Calzada. In any case, this road, which connects with the Flores-Poptun road at Sabaneta, may in future provide the best initial approach to Ucanal and Yaltutu.

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATIONS AT THE SITES Merwin, working for the Peabody Museum, Harvard University, made his visit to Ucanal and Yaltutu in 1914; while there he mapped the sites and photographed some of the monuments, later writing a report which remains unpublished. A month after Merwin's visit, Morley spent one day at the sites examining monuments. Merwin's material was later used by Morley for his own report (1937-38, vol. 2, pp. 186-204).

My own first attempt to locate these sites, in 1967, was hampered by the oblivion into which they seemed to have fallen locally, largely because of the absence of lumbering or chiclero activity and the tangled state in which the forest was left by the hurricane of 1961. This oblivion, however, was not complete, as became apparent when Yaltutu was at last located: Stela 1 was discovered to have been cut up by looters a very short time before. Ucanal, on the other hand, which I did not succeed in finding until 1972, remained at that time quite untouched.

Shortly after rediscovering Ucanal, I returned to make the site plan published here, record the monuments, and remove Stela 4 and the two carved altars to safety.

NOTES ON THE RUINS The ceremonial area centers on a plaza of irregular shape, bounded by Structures A-26, A-33, A-35, A-24, and A-2l, the two last named being adaptations of hillocks. Within this area are eight carved monuments. Another sculpture, Miscellaneous 1, was found in 1972 on the center line of the ball court at the northern extremity of the plaza (Structures A-42 and A-43), and this can only have come to be there as the result of Post classic-or even post-Conquest- activity. On the grounds of epigraphic content, style, dimensions, shape, and type of stone, this piece can identified with certainty as a displaced member of the Naranjo Hieroglyphic Stairway. As such, it has already been published in part two of this volume (pp. 2:107 and 2:110).

It may be worth recording here that the ground on which the stone lay face up was quite flat and undisturbed by tree falls, and the level of the soil surface directly beneath it was some 5 em below that of the surrounding surface. A small excavation revealed a soil accumulation of 20 em beneath the stone, overlying a floor of stone chips and decayed plaster.

Near the southeast corner of the main plaza a causeway runs from in front of Structure A-33 toward the south for 90 m before terminating abruptly.

From the northwest corner of the plaza another causeway leads in a direction somewhat west of north to a small plaza containing Stela 9 and Altar 2, both plain. The fallen stela is 2.2 m long, 0.77 m wide, and 0.49 m thick; the altar 0.74 m in diameter and 0.31 m thick. East of this group, designated by Morley as Group B, and northeast of Group A, a number of mounds are shown on Merwin's plan (published by Morley) as constituting Group C, in which three plain stelae are also marked.

To the north and west of Group B the terrain falls away gently, while to the west of Group A it becomes broken, with several of the natural eminences having had structures built on them.

Lying at the same distance from the main plaza as Group B, and in the opposite direction, there is found Group D, a small acropolis in the center of which Stela 6 and its altar were set.

The trail from our campsite on the river bank went uphill in a more or less northerly direction for a distance of 400 or 500 m until reaching the west side of Structure A-29. At the side of the trail, some 150 m along the way, there was a ring of roughly circular flat stones, the diameter of the ring being about 7m.

In searching for Yaltutu, several mounds of some size were seen, most of them on the southeast side of the arroyo marked on the map as separating Yaltutu from Dcanal, and therefore clearly outlying elements of the latter. Although Yaltutu was the only mound of any size seen on the other side of the arroyo, others may well exist.

A NOTE ON THE PLAN OF THE SITE The plan of Dcanal reproduced here is the result of my incomplete survey of

1972. Many structures outside the centr~l area that were plotted by Merwin were neither surveyed nor even visited by me, nor have they been transferred to my plan from Merwin's, since the latter is revealed as rather too inaccurate for the purpose. In addition to the three plain stelae in Group C already mentioned (C1 and C3), several other stelae designated by Morley as A1 to A5, and D1 are likewise missing from the plan. The existence of Stela B2 is doubted.

In accordance with the general policy of numbering carved and uncarved stelae in a single series, Morley's Stela B1 has been redesignated as Stela 9. Stela 8, not shown by Merwin, also seems to have been plain. As far as possible, structure numbers have been left unchanged.

The plan of Yaltutu is taken from Morley's version (1937-38, vol. 2, fig. 33) of Merwin's plan, modified to incorporate the few measurements I took.

REGISTER OF INSCRIPTIONS

At Dcanal: Stelae 2-4, 6, 7 Altar of Stela 3 Altar 1

Miscellaneous 1 (see Note 3) At Yaltutu: Stela 1

NOTES 1. Stela 1 appears to be a zoomorph, 2.00 m long, 1.20 m wide, and 0.55 m high. It is severely eroded.

  1. Stela 5 is broken in half and badly eroded. It may have depicted a personage facing proper right, holding a lance, and standing with feet apart on a prostrate captive. Its dimensions are: HLC ca. 2.85 m, PB 0.86 m, MW 1.44 m, MTh 0.53 m, ReI ca. 3.5 cm.
  2. For Miscellaneous 1 (Naranjo, Hieroglyphic Stairway 1, Block XIII), see above and part two of this volume, pp. 2:107 and 2:110.

REFERENCE CITED MORLEY, SYLVANUS G.

1937-38 The Inscriptions 9f Peten. Carnegie Institution of Washington, Publication

437,5 vols. Washington, D.C.

 

 

 

SITE VOLUME REFERENCE:

SITE VOL/Part Monument Side Page Pub.year Notes Peobody Number
UCANAL 2.3 Map 151 1980
UCANAL 2.3 Map of Ruins 152 1980
UCANAL 2.3 Stela 2 front 156 1980 2004.15.6.4.7
UCANAL 2.3 Stela 3 front 158 1980 2004.15.6.4.8
UCANAL 2.3 Stela 4 front 159 1980 2004.15.6.4.9
UCANAL 2.3 Stela 6 front 161 1980 2004.15.6.4.10
UCANAL 2.3 Altar 1 upper surface 165 1980 2004.15.6.4.11
UCANAL 2.3 Altar of Stela 3 167 1980 2004.15.6.4.12

AUTHOR REFERENCE:

SITE (by Vol) VOL/Part Author(s)
UCANAL 2.3 Ian Graham, Vol. 2.3, 1980
1