TULUM, México – In a profound effort to preserve and celebrate the rich historical heritage of the Yucatan Peninsula, the Tren Maya project has joined forces with the pre-Hispanic city of Cobá, nestled amidst the lush jungles of Quintana Roo. As part of the Archaeological Zones Improvement Program spearheaded by the federal Secretariat of Culture through the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), Cobá is set to witness the establishment of a community museum and a visitor center.
In an unprecedented display of cooperation, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador acknowledged the remarkable willingness of Cobá’s inhabitants and ejidatarios, who engaged in fruitful dialogues with the heads of INAH and the Quintana Roo government, Diego Prieto Hernández and Mara Lezama Espinosa, respectively. This collaborative effort has culminated in a transformative agreement aimed at enhancing the public experience at this significant cultural treasure.
According to the esteemed anthropologist, Diego Prieto, the program will see the creation of a state-of-the-art visitor center and a community museum. These institutions will not only provide valuable insights into the archaeological site but also narrate tales of resilience and cultural development demonstrated by the pre-Hispanic and contemporary residents of Cobá.
“Cobá,” a Mayan toponym meaning “wetland” or “murky waters,” will soon undergo various research and conservation endeavors to open up new areas for public exploration. The INAH announced that over 3,400 linear meters of interpretive trails will be laid, the service facilities in the region will be revamped, and the archaeological campsite will be refurbished. Moreover, a cycling lane and a module for storing cultural artifacts discovered during archaeological investigations will be established.
Having been declared an Archaeological Monument Zone on April 27, 2023, Cobá boasts its earliest architectural traces dating back to 200 BCE. It stands out as one of the few non-coastal Maya settlements built in close proximity to surface water bodies. Its pinnacle of prosperity occurred between the 4th and 8th centuries CE when it became home to a dynasty of 14 rulers. Recent epigraphic research indicates that these rulers engaged in political rivalries with other highly significant Maya polities such as Tikal, in present-day Guatemala, and Calakmul, in Campeche.
At the zenith of its influence, the urban sprawl of Cobá expanded across more than 70 square kilometers, accommodating approximately 50,000 inhabitants and connected to peripheral cities through a network of meticulously paved roads known as sacbe’ob in the Maya language.
Regarding the overall progress of archaeological rescue efforts amidst the construction of the Tren Maya, the General Director of INAH reported that all project sections have received approval for construction. Nevertheless, he emphasized that the rescue work is far from complete, as numerous researchers are presently engaged in studying the identified contexts and materials. As of July 27, 2023, the institute has recorded and preserved an astounding 53,445 immovable assets, 1,925 movable elements, 767 vessels, and 635 human remains. Additionally, a staggering 1,193,562 ceramic fragments have been analyzed, and 2,242 natural features associated with ancient human settlements have been identified.