I myself have not made it to Kohunlich Maya ruins yet, but it has become very popular with the cruise ship tourists that come to Costa Maya. I plan on going there very soon.
The site is about 25 km east of the Rio Bec region, and about 65 km west of Chetumal on Highway 186, and 9 km south of the road. The Spanish name does not actually derive from Mayan but from the English Cohune Ridge where cohune palm grew.
The site covers about 21 acres (85,000 m2), surrounded by dense sub-tropical rainforest, and it contains almost 200 mounds, that remain largely unexcavated. The city was elaborately planned and engineered, with raised platforms and pyramids, citadels, courtyards and plazas surrounded with palace platforms, all laid out to channel drainage into a system of cisterns and an enormous reservoir to collect rainwater.
The site was settled by 200 BC, but most of the structures were built in the Early Classic period from about 250 to 600 AD. Many of them are still covered with thick vegetation and overgrown by trees. The city appears to have functioned as a regional center and stop along the trade routes through the southern Yucatán from Campeche and Rio Bec area to the west, and the cities along the east-coast and to the south, in the el Petén region of Guatemala and neighbouring Belize.
The site is best known for its Temple of the Masks, an Early Classic pyramid whose central stairway is flanked by huge humanized stucco masks. The Temple was built around 500 A.D. and is one of the oldest structures at Kohunlich. After 700 A.D., this temple was covered over with a Terminal Classic construction, which protected the masks and accounts for the marvelous state of their preservation today. The only standing remains of the later temple are some steps in the lower portion of the stair.
The road approaches the site from the north and leads into an enormous central plaza ringed by pyramids and temple platforms. To the north there is a massive, raised acropolis, or citadel, with a palace complex around a courtyard to the north-west. Further east there is the Temple of the Masks, built in honor of the sungod. Originally there were eight carved masks flanking its central staircase; only five remain, three having been looted.
Kohunlich (X-làabch’e’en in Modern Maya), or Ancient Mayan pronounced [KOE•HOON•LEECH]. Southern Quintana Roo, a Mayan ruin. Kohunlich is a corruption of the name “Cohune Ridge”. Cohune is a species of fruiting palm common to the area. Cohune is a Miskito word which shows that there was a connection to the Central American people to the south. Kohunlich used to be known as Clarksville when the British had control over this area.
Kohunlich is best known for its Temple of the Masks, an Early Classic pyramid whose central stairway is flanked by large stucco masks. The temple was built around 500 A.D.. After about 700 A.D., the temple was covered over with a Terminal Classic construction, which protected the masks and accounts for their excellent preservation today. The giant masks represent the Sun God “Kinich Ahau” however they differ in appearance so it is thought that they also represent the various rulers of Kohunlich.
In 1969 when looters discovered the site, they removed some of the outer covering of Structure I, and were in the process of removing the masks. Ignacio Ek, of the nearby village of Francisco Villa, came across this crime and reported it to the authorities, who then took steps to protect the masks and the site. The governor of Quintana Roo then made Ignacio Ek the custodian of the site which was known locally by the name of Kohunlich.
The city apparently rose to prominence in the Early Classic when there were important ties to the cultures of northern Belize; this has been deduced from the style of the god masks. There was a brief interlude before development picks up again in the Late Classic when we see significant architectural similarities with the Río Bec region. We may assume that there were also important trade and cultural links between the two, because the final demise of Kohunlich occurred more or less in synchronisation with the larger empire.
“Kinich Ahau Mask” On Bottom Right Hand Side Of The “Temple Of The Masks”.
Here is a good video about Kohunlich.
So if you come to Mahahual and Costa Maya on a cruise ship, or on vacation, this Maya site is a must to check out.
Thanks for reading,
Stewart Rogers USA-South Carolina