El Perú (Maya site)

El Perú (Maya site)

El Perú (also known as Waka' ), is a pre-Columbian Maya archeological site occupied during the Preclassic and Classic (roughly 500 BC to A.D. 800). The site was the capital of a Maya city-state located near the banks of the San Pedro River in the Department of Petén of northern Guatemala. El Perú is 60 km (37 miles) west of Tikal.


The site was named "El Perú" when rediscovered in the 20th century. Hieroglyphs identified and deciphered at the site have indicated that the ancient name for the site was “Waka'.” While both names are currently used interchangeably, El Perú predominates on extant maps.


The first recorded meeting between Teotihuacan and the Maya occurred at Waka' in 378, 10 days prior to their arrival at Tikal. This moment is known among Mesoamerican archaeologists as “La Entrada.” During the early phases of the Early Classic, Waka’ was allied with Tikal.

Waka’, however, later betrayed Tikal and forged an alliance with Calakmul. This alliance was solidified by K'inich Balam (“Sun Faced Jaguar”), who ruled from the late 7th century to the early 8th century and was married to Lady T'abi, a royal princess from Calakmul, capital of the Kan dynasty at the time. This union was a political maneuver that linked El Peru (K’inich Balam) to Calakmul and its leader Yuknom Cheen in a military alliance. Lady T’abi was later given the title "ix kaloomté" ("empress" or "war lord”), a high title used in ancient Maya texts. Yuknom Cheen was attempting to gather several Maya kingdoms into a larger polity

Waka’s downfall was likely initiated by its alliance with Calakmul. Following Tikal’s re-emergence from its hiatus in the Late Classic, Calakmul fell to its military might. Calakmul’s ruler, likely the brother of Lady T'abi, was defeated, captured ,and sacrificed in Tikal’s central plaza in A.D. 732. Waka’ was converted into a vassal state of Tikal and eventually destroyed a decade later, an event that included the capture and sacrifice of K'inich Balam's successor.

Recent discoveries

A number of tombs have recently been discovered at Waka' that contribute to the understanding of past Maya culture. [ [http://www.mesoweb.com/reports/waka2.html Tomb finds at El Peru] ] One that is particularly important is the “Queen’s Tomb.” This feature contains the remains of a female in a tomb containing a rich assortment of grave goods. Of particular importance is the presence of a bloodletting paraphernalia in the form of a ceremonial stingray spine. This object was in clear association with the individual’s genital region, and indicates that royal women practiced genitalia bloodletting rituals.

An additional tomb for an elite individual was recently found within an 18 meter tall pyramid located in the site’s central core. The tomb’s chamber, which is 5.1 meters long by 1.5 meters wide, contained a rich assemblage of grave goods, including jade offerings, shell artifacts, ceramic vessels, 12 ballgame player figurines, the paws of jaguar, and stones from the Eastern Highlands and the Pacific Lowlands, which were used as signs of wealth. The early date of the tomb, between ca. 200 and 400, indicates Waka’s early regional importance in the southern Maya lowlands.

Finally, recent research at the site of Zapote Bobal suggests a strong connection between that site and El Perú. It is possible that El Perú may have had a strong influence on the dynasty centered at Zapote Bobal. [Breuil et al. (2004).]

El Perú today

While open to the public, Waka' is a difficult site to get to. It sits atop an escarpment in the Laguna del Tigre National Park (part of the Maya Biosphere Reserve), six kilometers north of the San Pedro River. The site can be reached via an arduous route from Flores, the closest town with an airport (the Mundo Maya International Airport).



*Breuil, Véronique, Laura Gamez, James L. Fitzsimmons, Jean-Paul Metailie, Edy Barrios, and Edwin Roman (2004) Primeras noticias de Zapote Bobal, una ciudad maya clasica del norocidente de Peten, Guatemala. "Mayab" 17: 61-83.

External links

* [http://www.archaeology.org/interactive/waka/ Archaeology Magazine's Interactive Waka']
* [http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/05/040506073833.htm Recent announcements from Southern Methodist University Researchers]
* [http://www.nature.com/news/2005/050606/full/050606-15.html Nature Magazine]
* [http://www.authenticmaya.com/waka.htm Description and Photo Gallery]

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