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7 Oct 2017
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Explore Rivera Maya

Here’s a secret: There are Maya ruins in Akumal pueblo. Tucked behind some chaparral on a dead-end street and poorly quarantined by a strand of barbed wire, you can find the ruins if you know where to look. And some do know. The site, which is comprised of a medium-sized temple, has been spray painted, scratched in recent months, and littered with bottles and trash. But with the help of Miguel Covarrubias Reyna*, an archaeologist with the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH), the ruins have received overdue federal protection and a clean up order. Right now, the site isn’t open to the public and a special permit from INAH is needed to visit this place.

In a quadrant extending from Tulum to Coba, Covarrubias Reyna is surveying the land, pinpointing new archaeological sites and recording the known ones. His data will get plugged into an INAH database and will help protect these important Maya sites from the expansive commercial development the region is currently undergoing. “If you want to protect something, first you have to know what you have and where it’s located,” he said.

Akumal’s temple is from the post-classic period of the Maya and was once used for religious purposes, according to Covarrubias Reyna. The isolated site, he surmised, is likely dedicated to Ek Chuah, the god of commerce, which makes the area a former commercial route for the Maya. What’s interesting about the site, however, is that it features a small, newer shrine inside of a larger shielding temple, which is rare. “Usually the inner construct is the earliest one, but in this case, it’s the opposite.”  

Curiosity and the thrill of discovery drive Covarrubias Reyna. He recently spent some time recording sites within the Sian Ka’an biosphere and he regularly explores well-beaten areas searching for artifacts and clues that any untrained person might overlook. “It’s very difficult to find all of the sites because of the jungle,” he noted. But if something is there, he’s going to try and find it. Born into a life of art and the humanities, Covarrubias Reyna’s mother was also an archaeologist and his father a renowned artist. “How did I find archaeology?” he asked, laughing. “I had no choice.”

By Sarah Sweeney

Miguel Covarrubias Reyna:

  • Archaeologist, Available for off the beaten path private guided tours
  • Akumal, Quintana Roo
  • +52 984 183 5002 –