Coba is a large Maya site that is located in the state of Quintana
Roo. It is 56 miles east of Chichen Itza
about 26 miles west of the
Caribbean Sea, and 29 miles northwest of the site of Tulum. The ruins
are situated around two cenotes. Numerous sacbeob leave Coba
smaller sites. One such sacbe heads west for approximately 62 miles to
the ruin of Yaxuna. Coba has the tallest pyramids (140') on the
Yucatan. It is in a group of structures called the Nohoch Mul group. It
has been estimated that Coba could have had exceeded 50,000 inhabitants
and covered 52 square miles.
The majority of the structures date from
500 AD to 900 AD with most of the dated hieroglyphic inscriptions are
from 600 AD to 700 AD. The site was occupied by a sizable agricultural
population prior to 100 AD.
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. Coba
traded extensively with Mayan communities as far as Belize, Guatemala
and Honduras. Coba controlled a group of ports along the Caribbean,
They included Xcaret, Xel-Há, Tancah, Muyil, and Tulum. Knowledge of
Coba was never completely lost. John Lloyd Stephens included
information about Coba in his 1841 report. However, he did not visit
Coba because it was so distant from any known modern road or village
that he decided it too difficult to visit.
For much of the 19th century
the area could not be visited by outsiders due to the Caste War of
Teoberto Maler visited Coba in 1893 and took at least one
photograph. The amateur archaeologist Thomas Gann was escorted to Coba
by local Maya hunters in February 1926. Gann was first to published a
first-hand description of the ruins late in 1926. J. Eric S. Thompson
visited Coba and reported a large site with many inscriptions. Sylvanus
Morley soon followed up with a more extensive examination of the site.
Coba remained isolated until the first modern road was opened in the
early 1970s. The Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History
began limited excavations in 1972 and consolidated several structures.
In the early 1980's a paved road to Coba was opened and regular bus
A small Villas Archeologicas Hotel was opened by Club
Today there is a small village of about 1,500 people.
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. Local guides are available at the entrance to the
site, as well as bicycle rentals to get to some of the farther ruins
within the archaeological zone. Coba, like all archaeological sites in
Mexico open to the public via INAH, is free to Mexican citizens on
Sundays and national holidays.
There is a small pueblo near the ruins, with some restaurants and small shops selling local crafts.