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Front view of the pyramid structure known as "La Iglesia" in the Group B, or Cobá Group, complex. Stela 11 is in the foreground at the base of the pyramid's steps, under the thatched roofing.


Coba (Cobá in the Spanish language) is a large ruined city of the Pre-Columbian Maya civilization, located in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. It is located about 90 km east of the Maya site of Chichen Itza, about 40 km west of the Caribbean Sea, and 44 km northwest of the site of Tulum, with which it is connected by a modern road.

Contents

Site layout and description

Map of the Cobá archeological site.
One of two ballgame courts at Cobá.

Coba is located around two lagoons. A series of elevated stone and plaster roads radiate from the central site to various smaller sites near and far. These are known by the Maya term sacbe (plural sacbeob). Some of these causeways go east to the Caribbean coast, and the longest runs over 100 kilometres (62 mi) westwards to the site of Yaxuna. The site contains several large temple pyramids, the tallest, in what is known as the Nohoch Mul group of structures, being some 42 metres (140 ft) in height (tallest in the Yucatan).

Coba is estimated to have had some 50,000 inhabitants (and possibly significantly more) at its peak of civilization, and the built up area extends over some 80 km². The site was occupied by a sizable agricultural population by the 1st century. The bulk of Coba's major construction seems to have been made in the middle and late Classic period, about 500 to 900, with most of the dated hieroglypic inscriptions from the 7th century. However Coba remained an important site in the Post-Classic era and new temples were built and old ones kept in repair until at least the 14th century, possibly as late as the arrival of the Spanish.

Economy

Coba traded extensively with other Mayan communities, particularly the ones further south along the Caribbean coast in what is now Belize and Honduras. It utilized the ports of Xcaret, Xel-Há, Tancah, Muyil, and Tulum.

Modern explorations

Knowledge of this expansive site was never completely lost, but it was not examined by scholars until the 1920s. John Lloyd Stephens mentioned hearing reports of the site in 1841, but it was so distant from any known modern road or village that he decided the difficulty in trying to get there was too daunting. For much of the rest of the 19th century the area could not be visited by outsiders due to the Caste War of Yucatán. Teoberto Maler paid Coba a short visit in 1893 and took at least one photograph, but unfortunately did not publish at the time and the site remained unknown to the archeological community.

Amateur explorer Dr. Thomas Gann was brought to the site by some local Maya hunters in February 1926. Gann published the first first-hand description of the ruins later the same year. Gann gave a short description to the archeologists of the Carnegie Institution project at Chichen Itza, which sent out an expedition under J. Eric S. Thompson. Thompson's initial report of a surprisingly large site with many inscriptions prompted Sylvanus Morley to mount a more thorough examination of the site.

The Nohoch Mul pyramid.

Eric Thompson made a number of return visits to the site through 1932, in which year he published a detailed description.

The site remained little visited due to its remoteness until the first modern road was opened up to Coba in the early 1970s. As a major resort was planned for Cancún, it was realized that clearing and restoring some of the large site could make it an important tourist attraction.

The Mexican National Institute of Anthropology & History began some archeological excavations in 1972 directed by Carlos Navarrete, and consolidated a couple buildings. At the start of the 1980s another road to Coba was opened up and paved, and a regular bus service begun.

Coba became a tourist destination shortly thereafter, with many visitors visiting the site on day trips from Cancún and the Riviera Maya. Only a small portion of the site has been cleared from the jungle and restored by archaeologists.

As of 2005 the resident population of Coba pueblo was 1,167.[1]

Panoramic view from the top of the Nohoch Mul pyramid.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ 2005 census

References

External links

Coordinates: 20°29′24″N 87°43′51.60″W / 20.49°N 87.731°W / 20.49; -87.731

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Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Nohuch Mul pyramid at Coba.
Nohuch Mul pyramid at Coba.

Cobá is a large ruined city of the Pre-Columbian Maya civilization, located in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. It is located about 90 km east of the Maya site of Chichen Itza, about 40 km west of the Caribbean Sea, and 44 km northwest of the site of Tulum, with which it is connected by a modern road.

Coba is estimated to have had some 50,000 inhabitants (and possibly significantly more) at its peak of civilization, and the built up area extends over some 80 km². The site was occupied by a sizable agricultural population by the 1st century. The bulk of Coba's major construction seems to have been made in the middle and late Classic period, about 500 to 900, with most of the dated hieroglypic inscriptions from the 7th century. However Coba remained an important site in the Post-Classic era and new temples were built and old ones kept in repair until at least the 14th century, possibly as late as the arrival of the Spanish.

Cobá, like all archaeological sites in Mexico open to the public via INAH, is free to Mexican citizens on Sundays and national holidays.

Carved stellae, like this one, tell the tale of Coba.
Carved stellae, like this one, tell the tale of Coba.

Coba is an undeveloped archaeological site deep in the Yucatan jungle. Temperatures are usually hot and humidity is often very high. Limited tourist services are available there, so plan to bring water, mosquito repellant, a hat, and sturdy shoes because the trails are not paved and the site is big.

Get in

You can drive to Cobá from Tulum (approx. 45 minutes). The 2-lane road passes through several small Mexican villages where you can stop for a bite to eat or to buy some local handicrafts. From Cancun or Playa del Carmen, take highway 307 south to Tulum, and then turn inland where marked.

There are several ADO buses every morning to Coba from Cancun (3h), Playa del Carmen (2h) and Tulum (1h), and two each afternoon out again at 13h30 and 15h30. Buses stop at the El Bocadito restaurant, which doubles as bus ticket office. From there the entrance to the archaeological site is a short 500m walk on down the same road, which bends off to the left when it reaches lake Coba. You may see crocodiles on the lake shore, well below the road.

Visitors arriving by bus will be offered a shuttle service by the restaurant staff. Unless walking is not an option, there is no need to use this serivice - and if walking is not an option, Coba is probably not a good choice anyway, as a good deal of walking is inevitable at the site, even if you rent a bicycle or rickshaw.

Get around

The distance from the entrance to the main pyramid is over 1 km. Bicycles are available for rent for MXN 30, and bicycle rickshaws and drivers are available to take you throughout the site; using one or the other is a good idea. Note that tall visitors may have difficulty finding a bicycle of suitable height - be sure to ask for el muy grande. Bicycles are not allowed onto the ruins themselves, so walking a certain distance at each group of buildings is inevitable.

Local guides are available for walking or biking, and are extremely knowledgeable.

Ballcourt at Coba.
Ballcourt at Coba.

The site consists of a large complex of ruins, only a small portion of which have been cleared from the jungle and restored by archaeologists. The Nohuch Mul pyramid is 42 meters (138 feet) high, and is the tallest Mayan structure in the Yucatan and the second highest in the whole Mayan world. There are several other buildings of interest including several temples, an ancient gallery of carved stellae, an astronomical observatory, and a ball court.

One of the most archaelogically interesting features of Coba is the network of elevated roads that emanate out from the city towards other Mayan cities. These roads, called sacbeob ('sacbe' sing.) are thought to have been their equivalent to an interstate highway system, enabling easy transportation throughout the Mayan world.

Buildings at Coba are clustered in groups, such as the Grupo Coba, Grupo Nohuch Mul, and Grupo las Pinturas.

Do

As of June 2009, it was permitted to climb to the top of the pyramid, by a very steep set of stone stairs, but most of the other structures were not open to climbing. The climb to the top is well worth it, albeit a little nerve-wracking if you are afraid of heights: The top of the pyramid juts out over the forest and you get a beautiful view of vast flat sea of green and get an idea of why the pyramids were so powerful.

Buy

There is a small pueblo near the ruins, with some restaurants and small shops selling local crafts.

Eat

At the entrance to the ruins and at the Nohoc Mul group, cold beverages and snacks can be purchased.

  • El Bocadillo Restaurant in Coba pueblo that also functions as bus station. Simple menu with tasty local dishes. Prices remarkably low given the advantage offered by ADO patronage at a tourist location.

Simple English

This article is about the city. For the vegetable, see Wild rice.

Coba (Cobá in the Spanish language) is a big ruined city of the Pre-Columbian Maya civilization. It can be found in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. It can be found about 90 km east of the Maya site of Chichen Itza, about 40 km west of the Caribbean Sea, and 44 km northwest of the site of Tulum. Coba was thought to have had around 50,000 people living in it.

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