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The Kowoj [koʔwox] (also recorded as Ko'woh, Couoh, Coguo, Cohuo, Kob'ow and Kob'ox, and Kowo) was a Maya group and polity, from the Late Postclassic period (ca. 1250–1697) of Mesoamerican chronology. The Kowoj claimed to have migrated from Mayapan sometime after the city's collapse in 1441 AD.[ citation needed ] Indigenous documents also describe Kowoj in Mayapan and linguistic data indicate migrations between the Yucatán Peninsula and the Petén region.

Maya civilization Mesoamerican civilization

The Maya civilization was a Mesoamerican civilization developed by the Maya peoples, and noted for its logosyllabic script—the most sophisticated and highly developed writing system in pre-Columbian Americas—as well as for its art, architecture, mathematics, calendar, and astronomical system. The Maya civilization developed in an area that encompasses southeastern Mexico, all of Guatemala and Belize, and the western portions of Honduras and El Salvador. This region consists of the northern lowlands encompassing the Yucatán Peninsula, and the highlands of the Sierra Madre, running from the Mexican state of Chiapas, across southern Guatemala and onwards into El Salvador, and the southern lowlands of the Pacific littoral plain.

Polity group of people who are collectively united by a self-reflected cohesive force

A polity is any kind of political entity. It is a group of people who are collectively united by a self-reflected cohesive force such as identity, who have a capacity to mobilize resources, and are organized by some form of institutionalized hierarchy.

Mesoamerican chronology Divides the history of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica into several periods

Mesoamerican chronology divides the history of prehispanic Mesoamerica into several periods: the Paleo-Indian, the Archaic, the Preclassic or Formative, the Classic (250–900CE), and the Postclassic, Colonial (1521–1821), and Postcolonial (1821–present). The periodization of Mesoamerica is based on archaeological, ethnohistorical, and modern cultural anthropology research. The endeavor to create cultural histories of Mesoamerica dates to the early twentieth century, with ongoing work by archeologists, ethnohistorians, historians, and cultural anthropologists.


A specific variant of temple assemblage, in a C-shaped plaza, defines the location of the Kowoj in both Mayapan and Petén. These assemblages were the exemplary centers of the Ko'woj. The temple assemblages also communicated a prestigious connection with Mayapan and differentiated the Kowoj from their Itzá neighbors in the Petén Basin region. Temple assemblage with raised shrine lies at a right angle to a western facing temple rather than facing into it. This specific variant appears at central Petén sites including Zacpetén, Topoxte, and Muralla de Leon, all of which lie within the reconstructed Ko'woj social boundaries. Ceremonial architecture outside these boundaries follows a very different pattern. For example, Late Post Classic Itzá ceremonial groups do not appear to include formal temples. The residences at Zacpetén are tandem-shaped structures standing in patio groups. Tandem residences include a front room and back room, the former has a plastered and occasionally painted surface while the latter has an earthen floor. Household production activities are concentrated in the back room, while socializing and ritual performances were focused upon the front room.

Temple structure reserved for religious or spiritual activities

A temple is a structure reserved for religious or spiritual rituals and activities such as prayer and sacrifice. It is typically used for such buildings belonging to all faiths where a more specific term such as church, mosque or synagogue is not generally used in English. These include Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism among religions with many modern followers, as well as other ancient religions such as Ancient Egyptian religion.


Mayapan, , is a Pre-Columbian Maya site a couple of kilometers south of the town of Telchaquillo in Municipality of Tecoh, approximately 40 km south-east of Mérida and 100 km west of Chichen Itza; in the state of Yucatán, Mexico. Mayapan was the political and cultural capital of the Maya in the Yucatán Peninsula during the Late Post-Classic period from the 1220s until the 1440s. Estimates of the total city population are 15,000–17,000 persons, and the site has more than 4,000 structures within the city walls, and additional dwellings outside.

The Petén Basin is a geographical subregion of Mesoamerica, primarily located in northern Guatemala within the Department of El Petén, and into Campeche state in southeastern Mexico.

Their main cities were Zacpeten, on the Salpetén lake, Ixlu, between Petén Itzá and Salpetén lakes, and Topoxte on the Yaxha lagoon, that was abandoned prior to their conquest in 1697 AD, being the Ko'woj and the Itzá, the last cultures to be conquered in Mesoamerica.


Zacpeten is a pre-Columbian Maya archaeological site in the northern Petén Department of Guatemala. It is notable as one of the few Maya communities that maintained their independence through the early phases of Spanish control over Mesoamerica.


Ixlu is a small Maya archaeological site that dates to the Classic and Postclassic Periods. It is located on the isthmus between the Petén Itzá and Salpetén lakes, in the northern Petén Department of Guatemala. The site was an important port with access to Lake Petén Itzá via the Ixlu River. The site has been identified as Saklamakhal, also spelt Saclemacal, a capital of the Kowoj Maya.

Lake Petén Itzá lake

Lake Petén Itzá is a lake in the northern Petén Department in Guatemala. It is the second largest lake in Guatemala, after the Izabal Lake. It is located around 16°59′0″N89°48′0″W. It has an area of 99 km² some 32 km. long and 5 km wide. Its maximum depth is 160 m. The lake area presents high levels of migration, due to the existence of natural resources such as wood, chewing gum, oil, and agricultural and pasture activities. Because of its archaeological richness, around 150,000 tourists pass through this region yearly. The city of Flores, the capital of El Petén, lies on an island near its southern shore.

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The Spanish conquest of Yucatán was the campaign undertaken by the Spanish conquistadores against the Late Postclassic Maya states and polities in the Yucatán Peninsula, a vast limestone plain covering south-eastern Mexico, northern Guatemala, and all of Belize. The Spanish conquest of the Yucatán Peninsula was hindered by its politically fragmented state. The Spanish engaged in a strategy of concentrating native populations in newly founded colonial towns. Native resistance to the new nucleated settlements took the form of the flight into inaccessible regions such as the forest or joining neighbouring Maya groups that had not yet submitted to the Spanish. Among the Maya, ambush was a favoured tactic. Spanish weaponry included broadswords, rapiers, lances, pikes, halberds, crossbows, matchlocks and light artillery. Maya warriors fought with flint-tipped spears, bows and arrows and stones, and wore padded cotton armour to protect themselves. The Spanish introduced a number of Old World diseases previously unknown in the Americas, initiating devastating plagues that swept through the native populations.

Petén Department Department in El Petén, Guatemala

Petén is a department of the Republic of Guatemala. It is geographically the northernmost department of Guatemala, as well as the largest by area — at 13,843 sq mi (35,854 km2) it accounts for about one third of Guatemala's area. The capital is Flores. The population at the 2002 Census was 366,735; the latest official estimate as of mid-2012 was 662,779.

Flores, El Petén Place in El Petén, Guatemala

Flores is the capital of the Petén Department, Guatemala's landlocked, northernmost department. The population is 13,700 (2003).

Tayasal (archaeological site) archaeological site

Tayasal is a Maya archaeological site located in present-day Guatemala. It was a large Maya city with a long history of occupation. Tayasal is a corruption of Tah Itza, a term originally used to refer to the core of the Itza territory in Petén. The name Tayasal was applied in error to the archaeological site, and originally applied to the Itza capital. However, the name now refers to the peninsula supporting both the archaeological site and the village of San Miguel. The site was occupied from the Middle Preclassic period through to the Late Postclassic (c. 1200–1539 AD).

Itza Central American ethnic group

The Itza are a Guatemalan people of Maya affiliation. They inhabit the Petén department of Guatemala in and around the city of Flores on Lake Petén Itzá.

Topoxte island

Topoxte is a pre-Columbian Maya archaeological site in the Petén Basin in northern Guatemala with a long occupational history dating as far back as the Middle Preclassic. As the capital of the Kowoj Maya, it was the largest of the few Postclassic Mesoamerican sites in the area. Topoxte is located on an island on Yaxha Lake across from the important Classic period center of Yaxha.

Spanish conquest of the Maya Conquest dating from 1511 to 1697

The Spanish conquest of the Maya was a protracted conflict during the Spanish colonisation of the Americas, in which the Spanish conquistadores and their allies gradually incorporated the territory of the Late Postclassic Maya states and polities into the colonial Viceroyalty of New Spain. The Maya occupied a territory that is now incorporated into the modern countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador; the conquest began in the early 16th century and is generally considered to have ended in 1697.

Maya city

Maya cities were the centres of population of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization of Mesoamerica. They served the specialised roles of administration, commerce, manufacturing and religion that characterised ancient cities worldwide. Maya cities tended to be more dispersed than cities in other societies, even within Mesoamerica, as a result of adaptation to a lowland tropical environment that allowed food production amidst areas dedicated to other activities. They lacked the grid plans of the highland cities of central Mexico, such as Teotihuacán and Tenochtitlan. Maya kings ruled their kingdoms from palaces that were situated within the centre of their cities. Cities tended to be located in places that controlled trade routes or that could supply essential products. This allowed the elites that controlled trade to increase their wealth and status. Such cities were able to construct temples for public ceremonies, thus attracting further inhabitants to the city. Those cities that had favourable conditions for food production, combined with access to trade routes, were likely to develop into the capital cities of early Maya states.

Nojpetén Mayan city

Nojpetén was the capital city of the Itza Maya kingdom of Petén Itzá, located on an island in Lake Petén Itzá in the modern department of Petén in northern Guatemala. The island is now occupied by the modern town of Flores, the capital of the Petén department, and has had uninterrupted occupation since pre-Columbian times. Nojpetén had defensive walls built upon the low ground of the island; they may have been hastily constructed by the Itza at a time when they felt threatened either by the encroaching Spanish or by other Maya groups.

Kan Ekʼ Mayan kings in Guatemala

Kan Ekʼ was the name or title used by the Itza Maya kings at their island capital Nojpetén upon Lake Petén Itzá in the Petén Department of Guatemala. The full title was Aj Kan Ekʼ or Ajaw Kan Ekʼ , and in some studies Kan Ekʼ is used as the name of the Late Postclassic Petén Itza polity.

Twin-pyramid complex

A twin-pyramid complex or twin-pyramid group was an architectural innovation of the Maya civilization of ancient Mesoamerica. Twin-pyramid complexes were regularly built at the great city of Tikal in the central Petén Basin of Guatemala to celebrate the end of the 20-year kʼatun cycle of the Maya Long Count Calendar. A twin-pyramid complex has been identified at Yaxha, a large city that was 30 kilometres (19 mi) to the southeast of Tikal. Another has been mapped at Ixlu, and Zacpeten appears also to possess at least one twin-pyramid complex and possibly two. These examples outside of Tikal itself indicate that their cities were closely linked to Tikal politically.


The Yalain have been proposed as a Maya polity that existed during the Postclassic period in the Petén Basin of northern Guatemala, based in the central Petén lakes region. A small town called Yalain was described in 1696 by the Franciscan friar Andrés de Avendaño y Loyola. It was said to consist of a relatively small number of residences clustered within rich agricultural land. The town was located to the east of Lake Petén Itzá and was said to have been farmed by the inhabitants of Nojpetén, the capital city of the Itza kingdom. The political extent and archaeology of the Yalain is poorly understood.

Spanish conquest of Petén

The Spanish conquest of Petén was the last stage of the conquest of Guatemala, a prolonged conflict during the Spanish colonisation of the Americas. A wide lowland plain covered with dense rainforest, Petén contains a central drainage basin with a series of lakes and areas of savannah. It is crossed by several ranges of low karstic hills and rises to the south as it nears the Guatemalan Highlands. The conquest of Petén, a region now incorporated into the modern republic of Guatemala, climaxed in 1697 with the capture of Nojpetén, the island capital of the Itza kingdom, by Martín de Ursúa y Arizmendi. With the defeat of the Itza, the last independent and unconquered native kingdom in the Americas fell to European colonisers.


The Kejache were a Maya people in the southern Yucatán Peninsula at the time of Spanish contact in the 17th century. The Kejache territory was located in the Petén Basin in a region that takes in parts of both Guatemala and Mexico. Linguistic evidence indicates that the Kejache shared a common origin with the neighbouring Itzas to their southeast and the Kejache may have occupied the general region since the Classic period. The Kejache were initially contacted by conquistador Hernán Cortés in 1525; they were later in prolonged contact with the Spanish as the latter opened a route southwards towards Lake Petén Itzá.

Peten Itza kingdom

The Peten Itza kingdom was a kingdom centered on the island-city of Nojpetén on Lake Peten Itza.

History of the Maya civilization

The history of Maya civilization is divided into three principal periods: the Preclassic, Classic and Postclassic periods; these were preceded by the Archaic Period, which saw the first settled villages and early developments in agriculture. Modern scholars regard these periods as arbitrary divisions of chronology of the Maya civilization, rather than indicative of cultural evolution or decadence. Definitions of the start and end dates of period spans can vary by as much as a century, depending on the author. The Preclassic lasted from approximately 2000 BC to approximately 250 AD; this was followed by the Classic, from 250 AD to roughly 950 AD, then by the Postclassic, from 950 AD to the middle of the 16th century. Each period is further subdivided:


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