According to Mexico News Daily, the archaeological site of Oxtankah provides insight into how its inhabitants utilized marine resources for economic purposes. While the ancient Mayas are renowned for their achievements in architecture and astronomy, their commercial and seafaring capabilities are lesser-known.
The Oxtankah Maya were skilled sailors, employing canoes for trade in the Caribbean Sea and supplying goods to other Maya communities, as stated by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).
Visitors to Oxtankah can combine their trip with a visit to the famous Lagoon of Seven Colors in Bacalar, which is just 16 kilometers away from Chetumal.
History enthusiasts can also spend several days exploring nearby historical sites such as Chacchoben, Dzibanché, and Kohunlich. Notably, many structures at Oxtankah are still awaiting excavation.
The name “Oxtankah” was given to the site by scholar Alberto Escalona Ramos in 1937, with its original name remaining unknown. INAH indicates that the name might refer to a location surrounded by Ramón trees, a village situated between three towns, or three neighborhoods.
Oxtankah was occupied from around 600 B.C. to A.D. 1100, with its peak period occurring from A.D. 200 to 600. The settlement featured over 100 buildings, including the Tamalcab island located off the coast. The Maya inhabitants established a water system using ancient water cisterns called chultunes to collect rainwater.
Structure IV, a multi-level platform with remnants of four chambers, is situated west of the plaza. The step leading to the rooms is decorated with a red stucco design.
Archaeologists have discovered various symbols within this stucco decoration, including representations of the sacred jaguar, revered by the Maya. This section of the building is covered by a thatched roof.
Structure I, located east of the plaza, is a pyramid topped with a temple believed to have served as a funerary site. Two important tombs have been uncovered here.
South of the plaza stands a palace built on an elongated platform, serving as a residence for key city personnel and fulfilling administrative functions.
The Bees Plaza contains an altar in its center, also covered by a thatched roof. Building altars in the center of significant plazas is a Mesoamerican tradition.
This particular altar is home to a replica skeleton positioned in the same orientation as the original burial, with the head pointing north, symbolizing the direction associated with the deceased.
Adjacent to the Bees Plaza is the Columns Plaza, where numerous tombs have been discovered by archaeologists.
East of the Columns Plaza is Structure VI, a pyramid that houses several important tombs containing valuable offerings. Visitors can find a replica skeleton in one of these tombs.
To the west of this plaza lies a palace, with some of its rooms identified as potential royal residences. One of the rooms served as a kitchen, and the structure was once adorned with colorful stucco decorations.
Other notable structures at Oxtankah include an elite residence located north of the Columns Plaza, as well as a Spanish-built chapel from the 16th century, reminiscent of the chapel in Dzibilchaltn.
Finally, in the northern section of the site, there is a building on a circular platform that is believed to have had an astronomical function. Additionally, a chultun can be found in this area.
Before departing, visitors are encouraged to explore the small onsite museum, providing a glimpse into the life of the ancient Mayas.