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Findings and research at Kulubá (Photo: www.inah.gob.mx)
There have been some new findings and research done at Kulubá. Photo: www.inah.gob.mx

The five palaces of Kulubá

Recent work uncovered new palaces in the Mayan-itzá city of Kulubá in Yucatán.

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Recent work carried out by Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) at the lost Maya city of Kulubá have confirmed that the pre-Hispanic site was conquered and fiercely dominated by the Itzáes for approximately 200 years.

Kulubá is an important archaeological site located 37 kilometers southeast of Tizimín, in the eastern part of Yucatán, which has yet to open to the public due to ongoing research and restoration work. Its opening is supposed to happen in 2023.

"Now, Kulubá has five Palaces: of the Masks, of the U, Los Chenes and the recently discovered of the Pillars and of the Occupation of the Itzáes," Alfredo Barrera Rubio, INAH researcher and honorary doctorate from the State University of Russia, told EFE.

The archaeological work, carried out between November 2019 and April 2021, have also uncovered 29 burial bones, ceramic, obsidian and shell materials, and two connected Mayan palaces that will make the area even more attractive to tourists. 

Barrera Rubio also told EFE that Kulubá is formed by four large pre-Hispanic palace structures — the Palace of the Pillars, which is 55 meters long, 15 meters wide and has collapsed vaults six meters high. According to Barrera, the building was used so the rulers of Kulubá could observe the shows and rituals that took place in the Main Plaza. According to El Nacional, it has stairs that functioned as bleachers.

The other great building found was the Palacio Itzá, or Palacio de la Ocupación de los Itzáes, built right in front of the Palacio de los Pilares. Historians say that the natives of Chichén built the Palace of the Itzáes right in front of the Palace of the Pillars to take away its relevance. They mutilated the faces of sculptures of ancient rulers and degraded the burials of the nobility of Kulubá.

"The apogee of Chichén Itzá is very evident in the mural painting, architecture and ceramics. It is something that is evident in the archaeological materials we found," the renowned historian told EFE. He is also the author of the books In Search of the Ancient Maya: History of Archaeology in Yucatán and Fray Estanislao Carrillo and the Dwarf of Uxmal.

While excavating the Main Plaza, archaeologists found two sculptures of heads believed to belong to Kulubá dignitaries, whose faces were mutilated. Barrera said it was more evidence that the Itzáes tried to remove the memory of the ancient rulers. In the same area, bones of buried people have been found, mostly skulls that presented oblique tabular deformations and dental mutilation, which indicate they were ancient rulers, according to El Nacional.

What's striking is that they were thrown there without any consideration, and no sistas or offerings were discovered.

"Undoubtedly it is an act of contempt and disrespect to the ancestors, so everything indicates that there were acts of violence and degradation towards the ancient rulers. That is why I think there was a conflict during the occupation of the Itzaes," the specialist told El Nacional.

The warriors of Chichén Itzá would have been interested in Kulubá because of its important cocoa production because it is located in a resource-rich area with rejolladas. It is also only 50 kilometers from the north coast of Yucatán, and controlled a salt mine that was an important point of commerce.

The other two structures are an altar located in front of the Palace of the Pillars called Platform of the Deposits, "because there were found subway warehouses that were used to store salt or grains, such as ramón and corn." There is also a small altar with five deposits attached to a platform. It is the so-called temple of the 'U': a building with a T-shaped plant, whose most notorious characteristic is that its facades have decorations of carved stones and covered with a layer of stucco that resemble letters 'u.'
 
"In its time, the finishes of this temple would have given the impression of being snake scales; this is known because the stone reliefs that the building has in its accesses, resemble the jaws of a 'monster of the earth,'" said Fernanda Escalante, restorer of the Conservation Section of the INAH Yucatan Center, who co-directs the conservation project of architectural finishes in Kulubá.

In its heyday, the Mayan city had a population of some 20,000 people until it was abandoned by the Itzáes 200 years later. From then on, it became a place of worship, where people came sporadically to pay tribute to their ancestors.

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