The Mayan Ruins of Chicanná were rediscovered and named in 1966 by Jack D. Eaton. This discovery happened during his exploration of the Yucatan prior to the official start of the National Geographic/Tulane University archaeological study at the Becán Ruins. The façade at Structure II, The House of the Serpent mouth, in the Chicanná Ruins inspired this Mayan name,. In Mayan “chi” is mouth; “can” is serpent; and “na” is house.
Chicanná is located at the base of the Yucatan Peninsula in the state of Campeche, Mexico. The design took advantage of a slight natural elevation in the geography of the location. This elevation provided the perfect platform for the structures and rooms that would be used for important ritual ceremonies.
During the excavation of the Chicanná site, non-local materials have been found at the site such as objects from other Mayan cities located in the Guatemala highlands and Honduras. This led the archeologists to assume that Chicanná had important commercial connections with other settlements throughout the area. In a review of the Becán archeological site, these products could have been brought to Becán first and then distributed to the multiple settlements located in the Rio Bec Region.
Chicanná and Becan were built by the Maya during the Classic Period, estimated between 600 A.D, to 830 A.D. At Chicanna, there is evidence of occupation dates as early as 300 B.C. to 250 A.D. during the Late Preclassic period to as late as 1100 A.D. in the Early Postclassic period.
Even though the Chicanná and Becán settlements were build around the same time period, differences are noticeable. With its rich elaborate decoration, Chicanná has often been considered the smaller elitist center of the Maya, which served as a residential zone of the rulers of the ancient regional capital.
Chicanná is one of forty-five Mayan sites located in the Rio Bec region. The region is named for the shape, decoration and architectural style of the buildings located in this area. It is common to find the presence of elongated buildings lined by slender, rounded towers, as well as large representations of Itzamna, the principal god of the Maya pantheon.