Category Archives: Q’umarkaj

Q’umarkaj, (K’iche: [qʔumarˈkah]) (sometimes rendered as Gumarkaaj, Gumarcaj, Cumarcaj or Kumarcaaj) is an archaeological site in the southwest of the El Quiché department of Guatemala. Q’umarkaj is also known as Utatlán, the Nahuatl translation of the city’s name. The name comes from K’iche’ Q’umarkah “Place of old reeds”.

Q’umarkaj was one of the most powerful Maya cities when the Spanish arrived in the region in the early 16th century. It was the capital of the K’iche’ Maya in the Late Postclassic Period. At the time of the Spanish Conquest, Q’umarkaj was a relatively new capital, with the capital of the K’iche’ kingdom having originally been situated at Jakawitz (identified with the archaeological site Chitinamit) and then at Pismachi’.] Q’umarkaj was founded during the reign of king Q’uq’umatz (“Feathered Serpent” in K’iche’) in the early 15th century, immediately to the north of Pismachi’. In 1470 the city was seriously weakened by a rebellion among the nobility that resulted in the loss of key allies of the K’iche’.

Archaeologically and ethnohistorically, Q’umarkaj is the best known of the Late Postclassic highland Maya capitals. The earliest reference to the site in Spanish occurs in Hernán Cortés’ letters from Mexico. Although the site has been investigated, little reconstruction work has taken place. The surviving architecture, which includes a Mesoamerican ballcourt, temples and palaces, has been badly damaged by the looting of stone to build the nearby town of Santa Cruz del Quiché.

The major structures of Q’umarkaj were laid out around a plaza. They included the temple of Tohil, a jaguar god who was patron of the city, the temple of Awilix, the patron goddess of one of the noble houses, the temple of Jakawitz, a mountain deity who was also a noble patron and the temple of Q’uq’umatz, the Feathered Serpent, the patron of the royal house. The main ballcourt was placed between the palaces of two of the principal noble houses. Palaces, or nimja, were spread throughout the city. There was also a platform that was used for gladiatorial sacrifice.

The area of Greater Q’umarkaj was divided into four major political division, one for each of the most important ruling lineages, and also encompassed a number of smaller satellites sites, including Chisalin, Pismachi’, Atalaya and Pakaman. The site core is open to the public and includes basic infrastructure, including a small site museum.

Guatemala Tourism United Nations Ruta de los Baktunes

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Posted in El Baúl, Guatemala City, Guatemala Tourism, Iximche, Kaminaljuyu, Mayan Tourism, Q'umarkaj, Quiriguá, Tak'alik Ab'aj, Tikal, Uaxactun, Yaxhá Ixlú | Tagged , | 1 Comment