Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


Kabaah (also spelled Kabah, Kabáh, Kahbah and Kaba) is a ruined city of the Maya civilization in the south-east of the state of Yucatán, Mexico. The site is located at 20 14.6 north, 89 39.9 west.

Kabaah is to the south of Uxmal, and is connected to that city by a grand 18 km long raised pedestrian causeway 5 meters wide with monumental arches at each end. Kabaah is the second largest ruin of the Puuc area after Uxmal.

Portion of "Temple of the Masks" fascade
as drawn by Catherwood

The name "Kabah" or "Kabaah" is usually taken to be archaic Maya language for "strong hand". This is a Pre-Columbian name for the site, mentioned in Maya chronicles. An alternative name is Kabahaucan or "Royal snake in the hand".

The area was inhabited by the mid 3rd century BC. Most of the architecture now visible was built between the 7th century and the 11th century. A sculputed date on a doorjam of one of the buildings gives the date 879, probably around the city's height. Another inscribed date is one of the latest carved in the Maya Classic style, in 987. Kabaah was abandoned or at least no new ceremonial architecture built for several centuries before the Spanish conquest of Yucatán.

The most famous structure at Kabaah is the "Palace of the Masks", the fascade decorated with hundreds of stone masks of the long-nosed rain god Chac; it is also known as the Codz Poop, meaning "Rolled Matting", from the pattern of the stone mosaics. This massive repetition of a single set of elements is unusual in Maya art, and here is used to unique effect.

Masks of the rain god abound on other strutures throughout the site. Copal incense has been discovered in some of the stone noses of the raingods.

The site also has a number of other palaces, low stone buildings, and step-pyramid temples. While most is in the "Puuc" Maya style, some show "Chenes" elements. The site had a number of scupted panels, lintels, and door-jams, most of which have been removed to museums elsewhere. The sculptures mostly depict the site's rulers and scenes of warfare.

The first detailed account of the ruin was published by John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood in 1843.

The site is on Mexican highway 261, some 140 km south from Mérida, Yucatán towards Campeche, and is a popular tourism destination. Ruins extend for a considerable distance on both sides of the highway; many of the more distant structures are little visited, and some are still overgrown with forest. As of 2003, a program is ongoing to clear and restore more buildings, as well as archeological excavations under the direction of archeologist Ramon Carrasco.

Kabaah was declared a Yucatán state park in 1993.

External links