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  • Stela 25
Site name: Xultun Site volume and author reference
Location and Access
Principal Investigations
Notes on the Ruins
References Cited

LOCATION AND ACCESS Xultun is located on high ground west of the Ixcan River (Rio Azul), approximately 28 km east-northeast of Uaxactun. Several aguadas are within easy reach of the site. Three of these are fairly constant sources of water: EI Delirio (2 km north), Los Tambos (2 km south), and Petipet (3.5 km west-southwest). Two other small aguadas (one 1.5 km south and the other 2 km southwest) are less reliable. Both of my journeys to the site began at Uaxactun, which is accessible year-round by plane and during the dry months by road from Tikal. I used the road in 1974 and traveled by plane in 1975. The route taken during my first visit to XuItun is indicated on the map.

Starting from Uaxactun in a northeasterly direction along the airstrip, one enters the Baja de la Juventud and continues along the trail in the monte baja for two hours (except for a few minutes in serrania) in a generally east-northeast direction. The path then turns eastward for approximately 2 km in changing terrain, before heading north for 4 kIn to the camp and aguada (dry in 1974) of La Palma (one crosses a dry riverbed a half hour before reaching La Palma).

From La Palma one continues east-southeast for a little less than 2 km (crossing mounds on two occasions) before heading generally northeast for 3 km, where, after crossing a baja, more ruins can be noted. Traveling 2 km in an easterly direction, one traverses a group of structures (some of which have been looted), and, after an additional hour of east-northeast travel, comes to the camp and aguada of Santa Marfa (actually a corriente or, here, a series of connected pools). Continuing slightly north of east for 8 km, one reaches the aguada of Hormiguero (dry in 1974). A "trocopas" (an old lumber road or "truck pass") from Yaloche to Dos Lagunas (now overgrown) is passed less than 2 km after leaving Santa Maria, and ruins and chultunes are seen often after crossing this old road.

From Hormiguero one follows a path south, passing several clusters of mounds before reaching the aguada of Petipet. Although the water at Petipet is the color of coffee, it is drinkable and fairly abundant. Fortunately this strangely named chicle camp retained its original name throughout the fifty years following the expeditions of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, as Xultun's approximate location was known in relation to that of Petipet. (Morley places Xultun about 3.5 km east of Petipet; it is actually slightly north of east.)

The path I took from Petipet to Xultun in 1974 was considerably longer than the actual distance separating the two sites (3.5 km). Following a roundabout set of trails, I traveled east-southeast for about one hour, then turned north near the abundant water source of Los Tambos, and continued in this direction for 3 km before reaching the center of Xultun. Another aguada, which was dry in 1974 but which supplied me with water the next season, is about halfway between Los Tambos and XuItun. Mounds are very much in evidence along this route, especially on the section closest to Xultun.

In 1975 I used a different route, shorter by 3 km (also indicated on the map), to leave the site. This path had been opened by a band of looters during the rainy season of 1974 in order to reach an aguada and camp southwest of the ruins. I also took a shorter, and unmapped, route in a westward direction from Petipet through the camps and aguadas of Arroyon and Caldera to reach Uaxactun.

The route taken by the expeditions from the Carnegie Institution of Washington in the 1920s (traveling northwest from Laguna Yaloche) is considerably longer than the paths I took.

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATIONS AT lHE SITE In March 1920, about four and a half years after the site was discovered by a chiclero named Aurelio Aguayo, the Carnegie Institution of Washington (CIW) organized the first of three visits to Xultun with its Fourth Central American Expedition. At that time S.C. Morley and C.E. Cuthe gave the site its name, which may be translated as "end stone" or "closing stone" a reference to the late date recorded in Stela 10 ( Ahau 3 Yaxkin). During the three-day exploration, Stelae 1 to 17 were found (although the numeration was changed slightly later on) and a partial plan of Group A was made (Morley 1920, pp. 322-324). Less than a year later Morley, togetherwith a.c. Ricketson, Jr. and A.K. Rutherford, spent a week at Xultun with the Fifth Central American Expedition. At this time Stelae 18 to 22 were found and additional notes and photographs were secured (Morley 1921, pp. 359-362). The last visit was made in April 1923, when the Seventh Central American Expedition stopped in Xultun, and W.A. Love and Ricketson determined the coordinates for the site. All the information known about this site up until the time of my explorations was the result of these three visits and was subsequently published in The Inscriptions of Petell (Morley 1937-38, vol. 1, pp. 383-422).

My work at the site was carried out during two visits: the first from March 23 to April 15, 1974, and the second from February 15 to March 18, 1975.

NOTES ON THE RUINS Considering the short time Morley and his colleagues spent at Xultun, it is remarkable how much information they were able to retrieve from the site. Although their visits totaled only ten days, they managed to find all but three of the stelae, photograph the majority of them, and produce a reasonable plan of most of Group B and the central area of Group A, plus a good description of the site (Morley 1937-38, pp. 385, 386). Morley was obviously well aware that the site had been inadequately surveyed and that it extended over a considerably larger area than he was able to include in his map.

In 1975 I spent approximately ten days mapping the site. It soon became apparent that C too, would be unable to cover the entire area, but would have to concentrate on the central groups alone, as the site continued in many directions, especially to the south and west. Although for the most part the structures become smaller and less densely spaced as they spread out, they extend for at least 1 to 1.5 km to the south, 2 km to the southwest, and clusters are found all the way to El Deliria, 2 km north, and may continue beyond. The ruins do not seem to extend east of Group B, however. In general. Morley's designations for the structures have not been followed, because the several new features that were incorporated into my plan made changes in numeration desirable.

Some new discoveries were made during my explorations: three stelae (23,24,25) and a ball court (Structures A-16, A-17) were found. The large Structure C-1, north of Group B, had apparently been missed by the CIW, as had the sacbe connecting the southwest corner of Group B to a large flat area (on which Stelae 23 to 25 and the building they face are located, as is the ball court some 200 m north of the stelae). Many additional mounds were added to Group A, and the western part of Group B was found to be more complex and extensive than Morley had indicated.

The largest structure at Xultun is Structure B-7. Its base is almost square, each side measuring about 45 m; it rises 24 m to a platform supporting a small structure 1.5 m high. Four stelae (18 to 21) were set in front and approximately 30 m west of this massive structure. At its northern end, 8-7 is connected by a long, low construction to a small group of mounds, and to the south it is connected by another low building to a platform supporting several structures (B-9 to 8-12); five stelae (13 to 17) were set up in front of this platform, and Stela 12 was placed on top of it, west of Structure 8-12. To the north and to the west (and to some extent to the south) of the large plaza of Group B, there is a rather sharp drop in the terrain; construction seems to have been confined generally to the flat raised area. Most ofthe structures demarcating this high terrain are relatively low, except for the northwest group (Structure B-21 rises from the ground level 5.5 m in the east and 12 m in the west). Two long structures (B-17 and B-30) and a cluster of smallish mounds (8-24 to 8-29) complete this group.

About 150 m north of the northernmost structures of Group B is Structure C-l, one of the largest at Xultun: the base is approximately 30 by 35 m, and it reaches a maximum height of 16.5 m (intermediate terraces are at 8,9, and 10 m). Some 80 m north of C-I is a group of medium·sized mounds. I limited my explorations of Group C to C-I and this cluster of mounds.

A number of impressive constructions enclose the main plaza of Group A, which is raised approximately 5 m above the surrounding terrain. The highest and most imposing of these structures is A-I, where the pyramidal substructure rises very steeply to a height of 24.5 m and is surmounted by a vaulted building 5.5 m high. The rear of A-I reaches a height of 35 m above the ground, even though the roofcomb has collapsed. Stelae 1 and 2 were set in front of the stairway leading up to the temple of A-I; and Stelae 3 and 22 (which is directly behind Stela 3) were set facing the stairway of Structure A-2, just east of A-I. Structure A-2 rises 16 m above the plaza floor. Stela 10 was set in front of another impressive mound (A-14) on the west side of the plaza. This building is 60 m long at the base, and where the roofcomb survives, reaches a height of 17 m. Six stelae were placed on the eastern side of the plaza (Stelae 4 and 5 facing A-3; Stelae 6 to 9 facing A-4).

The southern side of the main plaza of Group A is also very impressive with three imposing structures (A-5, A-7, and A-9) which rise steeply to heights of 19,17, and 15.5 m respectively and are connected by buildings 4.5 to 7 m high, forming two small courts, South and west of the main plaza many other structures were built, forming a large number of courts, often with fair-sized mounds in one corner.

The last three stelae (23 to 25) were set facing south (in front of Structure A-23), the only ones so placed at the site.

The ball court (A-16 and A-I7) was built north of Structures A-I and A-2.

The area between the ball court and Group B and west of the sacbe is a large guanal.

Standing on Structure A-54, at the edge of an 8 m drop in the terrain, looking westward, I wrote in my notebook, "many mounds visible, some large." Similar observations were made looking south from Structures A-56, A-46, A-34, andA-30. There was not sufficient time to extend the map further. Other fairly high mounds are A-54 (10.5 m), 6-11 (9 m), and A-12 and A-38 (8 m), and there are many structures higher than 5 m. Three sunken structures (A-2S, B-23, B-31) were noted as well.

REMARKS No evidence was found to support Morley's placement of some of the altars.

As a matter of fact no altars were found for Stelae 5, 9, and 19; the one for Stela 20 was questionable at best, as it consisted of nothing more than rubble. There was an altar approximately equidistant from Stelae 16 and 17, rather than in front of Stela 16, as Morley indicated. Nor was Morley's Altar A-I found, although there is a limestone outcropping at the approximate location indicated by the CIW map.

Latex molds were made of the glyph panels on the fronts of Stelae 4, 5, 9, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, and 25 and of the front of Stela 22 and of the lowest ("slave") panel of Stela 4.

In the early seventies, Stelae 3 and 12 were looted; in late 1974 Stela 10 disappeared. At the time of my first visit to the site, large trenches had been dug into Structures A-S, A-7, A-9 and many smaller buildings. (The looters were active in the site when we arrived, but left four days later when it became apparent that we planned an extended stay). A year later Structures A-I, A-2, A-3, A-5 (again) and many others had been tunneled through by people who made a camp by a small aguada southwest of the site. Xultun has been savagely looted: more than 50 trenches have been made, representing the illicit activity of a number of men for many weeks in the removal of many tons of stone.

REGISTER OF NSCRIPTIONS AT XULTUN Stelae 1 to 10 and 12 to 25

The top fragment of Stela 13 was incorrectly called Stela 11 by Morley. To avoid confusion, Morley's designations of the other monuments have not been altered, and the recently discovered stelae have been assigned new numbers. As a result, there no longer exists a Stela 11 at Xultun.


1920 "Archaeology," Carnegie Institution Washington Yearbook 19. Washington, D.C.

1921 "Archaeology," Carnegie Institution of Washington Yearbook 20. Washington, D.C.

1937-38 The Inscriptions of Peten. Carnegie Institution of Washington, Publication 437, 5 vols. Washington, D.C.




SITE VOL/Part Monument Side Page Pub.year Notes Peobody Number
XULTUN 5.1 Map 5 1978
XULTUN 5.1 Map of Ruins 6 1978
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 1 front 11 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 2 front 13 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 3 front 15 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 3 left side 16 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 3 right side 17 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 4 front 19 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 4 left side 20 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 4 right side 21 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 5 front 23 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 5 left side 24 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 5 right side 25 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 6 front 27 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 6 left side, right side 28 1978 both on one paper 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 7 front 29 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 7 left side, right side 30 1978 both on one paper 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 8 front 31 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 8 left side 32 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 8 right side 33 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 9 front 35 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 9 left side, right side 36 1978 both on one paper 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 10 front 37 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 10 left side 38 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 10 right side 38 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 12 front 39 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 11 front 41 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 11 left side, right side 42 1978 1 piece 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 14 front 46 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 14 left side 47 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 15 front 50 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 15 left side, right side 51 1978 1 piece 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 16 front 53 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 17 front 55 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 17 left side, right side 56 1978 1 piece 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 18 front 59 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 18 left side, right side 60 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.1 Stela 19 front 61 1978 2004.
XULTUN 5.2 Stela 20 front 69 1984 2004.
XULTUN 5.2 Stela 20 left side, right side 70,71 1984 1 piece 2004.
XULTUN 5.2 Stela 21 front 74 1984 2004.
XULTUN 5.2 Stela 21 left side, right side 75,76 1984 1 piece 2004.
XULTUN 5.2 Stela 22 front 77 1984 2004.
XULTUN 5.2 Stela 22 left side, right side 78 1984 1 piece 2004.
XULTUN 5.2 Stela 23 front 80 1984 2004.
XULTUN 5.2 Stela 23 left side, right side 81 1984 1 piece 2004.
XULTUN 5.2 Stela 24 front 84 1984 2004.
XULTUN 5.2 Stela 24 left side, right side 85 1984 1 piece 2004.
XULTUN 5.2 Stela 25 front 86 1984 2004.
XULTUN 5.2 Stela 25 left side 89 1984 2004.
XULTUN 5.2 Stela 25 right side 89 1984 2004.


SITE (by Vol) VOL/Part Author(s)
XULTUN 5.2 Eric von Euw and Ian Graham, Vol 5.2, 1984
XULTUN 5.1 Eric von Euw, Vol. 5.1, 1978