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History of Uaxactun



With recent achievements in the decipherment of the ancient Maya hieroglyphic writing system, it has been determined that the ancient name for this site was something like Siaan K'aan or "Born in Heaven". The name "Uaxactun" was given to the site by its rediscoverer,United States archeologist Sylvanus Morley, in May 1916. He coined the name from Maya words Waxac and Tun, to mean "Eight Stones". The name has two meanings; the Morley's stated reason for the name was to commemorate it as the first site where an inscription dating from the 8th BaktĂșn of the Maya calendar was discovered (making it then the earliest known Maya date). The other meaning is a pun, since "Uaxactun" sounds like "Washington", the U.S. capital and home of the Carnegie Institute which funded Morley's explorations.

Morley's initial investigation of the site mostly focused on the hieroglyphic inscriptions, after this Uaxactun was not visited again until 1924, when Frans Blom made a more detailed investigation of the structures and mapped the site. The Carnegie Institution conducted archeological excavations here from 1926 through 1937, led by Oliver Ricketson. The excavations added greatly to knowledge of theearly Classic and pre-Classic Maya. The remains of several badly ruined late Classic era temple-pyramids were removed, revealing well preserved earlier temples underneath them.

For most of the Carnegie team's time at Uaxactun, communication with the outside world was via a 4 day mule convoy to El Cayo, British Honduras. Towards the end of the time an airstrip was opened up. Flights to Uaxactun continued and a small village grew here, as it became a center for gathering of chicle sap from the Peten jungle. In 1940 A.L. Smith and Ed Shook of the Carnegie project returned to make some additional excavations. In the late 1970s a rough road was opened up, connecting Uaxactun to Tikal and thence to Flores, Guatemala. Airflights were discontinued. In 1984 the road was much improved
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