In 1221 the Maya revolted against the Maya-Toltec lords of Chichen Itza. After a short civil war the lords of various powerful cities and families met to restore a central government to Yucatan. It was decided to build a new capital city near the town of Techaquillo, hometown of Hunac Ceel, the general who defeated the rulers of Chichen Itza. This new city was built within a defensive wall and named "Mayapan", meaning "Standard of the Maya people". The chief of the Cocom family, a rich and ancient family that had taken part in the revolt aganst Chichen, was chosen to be king, but all the other noble families and regional lords were to send members of their families to Mayapan to play parts in the government. This arrangement lasted for over 200 years. (An alternative account is given in a Maya chronicle from the Colonial era which claims that Mayapan was contemporary with Chichen and Uxmal and in alliance with those cities, but archeological evidence shows this version to be be less likely.) In 1441 Ah Xupan of the powerful noble family of Xiu became resentful of the political machinations of the Cocom rulers and organized a revolt. At the end of this most of the Cocom family were killed, Mayapan was sacked, burned, and abandoned, and Yucatan fell apart into waring city states.
Today the site of Mayapan is far from one of the more impressive Maya sites. This is in part to the fact that at the end of the revolt the roofs of every building in the city were burned or torn down. In a larger part, however, it is due to the fact that monumental architecture on the scale of Chichen Itza or Uxmal were simply never attempted at Mayapan. One central pyramid is a smaller version of the "Castillo" at Chichen Itza, there were a few other moderately sized temples and a palace (of which only the foundations exist); otherwise Mayapan had little public architecture. Most of the 4 km square walled city was packed with some 3500 residential buildings; Mayapan is estimated to have housed some 11,000 to 15,000 people.
5 years of archeological investigations at Mayapan were conduced by the Carnegie Institution in the 1950s. In 2001 further investigations at the site were made under the direction of Grinnell College.