From Academic Kids

Zaculeu is a Pre-Columbian archeological site in the highlands of south western Guatemala, a short distance outside of the city of Huehuetenango. Zaculeu was the capital of the Mam kingdom of Maya civilization.

Zaculew is the K'iche' translation of the Mam name for the settlement: Zac Tz'otz'. The K'iche' name was applied when K'iche' men conscripted by Alvarado participated in the siege of Zac Tz'otz'.

Zaculeu was first occupied in the 5th century, and the buildings from this era show the influence of Teotihuacan. The largest constructions date from the Classic Era. To these were added other plaza groups and buildings in the early and late post-classic in an unbroken history. Zaculeu has been used as a ceremonial site by Mam Maya continuously to the present.

The site contains a number of temple-pyramids and governmental palaces around a series of plazas, and a court for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame. The site was originally fortified with walls.

At the time of the Spanish invasion, the main population was situated in Xinabahul, now the city of Huehuetenango, but Zaculeu's fortifications led to its use as a refuge during the conquest.

The refuge was attacked Conquistador Pedro de Alvarado in 1525, but the well defended city at first threw back the Spanish. Alvarado left his brother Gonzalo de Alvarado in charge of a siege, with 40 horsemen, 80 Spanish footsoldiers, and some 2,000 native allies from central Mexico. The city was defended by Mam king Caibil Balam commanding some 5,000 (the chronicles are not clear if this is the number of soldiers or the total population of Zaculeu).

After a siege of over a month the Mam were reduced to starvation and in October surrendered to the Spanish. After this Zaculeu it was abandoned, and the new city of Huehuetenango established some 5 km away.

In the late 1940s the United Fruit Company sponsored archeological excavations and restorations of the structures. The later included recoating a number of the buildings with white plaster, as it was known that many were originally, but this has seldom been redone in restoring Pre-Columbian buildings.

Missing image

ceremonial center of Zaculeu, ballcourt in front center

The site is open for tourism visits and has a small museum.

External link


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools