In Coba, far away from city noise, time seems to stand still and nature and history provides us with and amazing spectacle. Here, people wake up to fascinating bird songs in the morning, go about their daily business to the rhythm of hundreds of butterflies dancing in the sunlight; and unique background music is always provided by chirping grasshoppers and croaking frogs whose home is this archaeological park.
This Mayan city (whose name means "water stirred up by the bird") is surrounded by five lakes, and flourished 1300 years ago amid the jungle of the north of Quintana Roo. It is said that almost 70,000 people came to live here, mostly in simple houses with stone foundations, walls made of branches covered with mud and thatched roofs. In the center of the city, near the elaborately decorated temples, public buildings and ball courts, governors lived in large stone houses decorated with stucco figures. The people would congregate in the ample plazas on market days and for public celebrations.
Ceramic pieces found indicate that people had lived in Coba since the pre-classic period which began with our era and ended in the year 400. Apparently Coba achieved its greatest splendor in the late classic period (A.D. 600-900) when the other architectonic group arose. The network of roads was built and the steles were sculpted as a result of urban group.
Today, visitors to the archaeological zone of Coba who venture a little farther into the jungle will discover some monuments that have been restored, among many that are totally overgrown. Coba covers an area of 24,710 acres and is composed of groups of buildings, the most important (the Coba group) located in the central region, between Coba and Macanxoc Lakes, covering an area of 11,119 acres, the building known as the church forms part of this group, and owes its name to the fact that even today, residents of Coba Mexico deposit offerings, pray and light candles before the stele at the base of the pyramid.
Another important ruin is the 42-Meter tall castle, a pyramid of the Nohoc Mul (great mound) group, the tallest pre-Hispanic construction of the peninsula. From the top, you can admire the other building groups: Macanxoc, Chumuc, Mul or Dzib Mul (mound of writing), testimonies to the magnificence of this civilization. The Many roads that cross the jungle in straight lines lead to different ceremonial centers, as well as to cities far north of the peninsula.
This network of approximately 50 white roads (sacbeob) converges precisely at the Coba archaeological zone which has amazed the world. The roads are built on perfectly straight, level platforms, the product of advanced technology. To build the roads, the Mayas used many cylinders, some weighing up to 5 Tons. This reveals their knowledge of the wheel, but for some reason still unknown to us, this technology was never applied other than to toys or rollers for flattening the roads.
Since this is a Mayan site on the Yucatan Peninsula, one might expect to find architecture similar to that in Chichen-Itza or Uxmal. However, the origins of Coba are more closely linked to settlements in northern Guatemala. For this reason exteriors have no columns, masks or the small drums characteristic of the central and western Yucatan. The buildings from the classic period we can admire today in Coba were constructed with unworked stone blocks. Just like in el Peten, the walls were covered with stucco and then painted in one or more colors, with or without representations, depending on their location and context (exterior, interior, temple, room, etc.).
Only the most weather-resistant ruin remains in Coba: the basic stone work and vestiges of interior and exterior walls. In the painting group, due to the exceptional favorable conditions, some remains of painted murals have been conserved.
A lot can be learned from the steles of Coba. Most of them are richly sculpted with inscriptions with sumptuously adorned figures. Many of the figures are women, represented in motifs usually reserved for men: holding the cane of power, the symbol of authority, and with prisoners at their feet, the symbol for conquest or sovereignty. Similar steles in Tankah, Ichpatun and others show women in especially important roles, both as ambassador in the north, and in politics.
There is still so much we don't know about Coba and an exhaustive exploration will undoubtedly take many years. Hundreds of scientists and specialists have made interesting discovers by piecing together bits of history from this fascinating culture of astronomers, and traders, artists and warriors, bits that had remained hidden in the ruins for over a thousand years…
Let's allow our imagination to soar as we reconstruct this part of the past, and experience the richness of this enigmatic civilization.