Following Calakmul's “Ruta Larga” path, you’ll pass a right-hand turnoff for the Mural Group, aka the North Group, which is currently being excavated. Inside the low, simple structures are panels of pristine murals, reportedly on par with the famous murals at Bonampák, Chiapas. The public isn’t allowed in—and the entry is sealed with cement when workers aren’t there—but the discovery bodes well for the excavation of the scores of similarly innocuous-looking temples in the future.
Continue on the path to another turnoff, this one to the Residential Group, aka Casa del 6 Ahau, an elegant complex of rooms most likely used by an extended family among Calakmul’s elite. The rooms’ walls have niches and holes, which were surely used to hold wooden doors, curtain rods, or beams supporting the thatched roof.
Rooms vary in size, some facing a central patio, others reached by narrow corridors, and it’s easy to imagine a nuanced domestic scene unfolding here, with royal leaders coming and going, and children playing in the patio watched by elder grandparents, sitting in their doorways. The kingly name “6 Ahau” was inscribed on a vault here, though nothing more of that ruler is known.
The path leads over a small rise to the Gran Acrópolis. Structure XX will be on your right, with its small maze of rooms and columns. Continuing counterclockwise (keeping the structures to your right), you’ll pass Structures XVI, XVII, and XV, all with huge deteriorating stelae at their bases. The next one, Structure X, has somewhat better-preserved stelae, including Stela 75, which purportedly marks the birth of Yukom the Great, Calukmul’s most accomplished leader, in A.D. 600.
The stairway of Structure X is crumbling, but an older stairway—preserved beneath the outer one, a consequence of the Maya habit of draping new structures upon existing ones—has been exposed and is easily climbed.
Continue across the acropolis’s center through Calakmul’s modest Ball Court, which was built from stones gathered from an older building that was destroyed. At the north end of the Ball Court is a remarkably well-preserved stela, depicting a ball player. An inscription on the stela suggests the Ball Court was constructed in A.D. 751.
At the north end of the Gran Acrópolis is Structure XIII. Impressive in its own right, Structure XIII is also notable for being one of the best places to get a photograph of Structure II (the big one). Getting to the top is a little tricky: Climb the stairs and go to the far left. There, you can clamber up the end of a broken wall, and then another, to reach the third level. Go back to the center and cut through one of the doorways, where a narrow ledge zigzags to the top.
© Gary Chandler & Liza Prado from Moon Yucatán Peninsula, 9th edition