Trade Roots

Traversing the Ancient Mayan Sacbe Between Yaxuna and Coba

Project Details

Project Start Date: May 2023 
Project End Date: July 2023
Country: Mexico

An expedition crossing the 62 miles of ancient Mayan Sacbe from the Mayan ruins of Yaxuna to Coba. 
The Takeaway:
Collaborating with archaeologist Dr. Lilia Lizama and Mayan communities in Yaxuna and Coba to remove growth and debri from the sacbe, and becoming the first modern woman to cross the sacbe in modern times, and to celebrate the engineering marvel of the sabce that was said to be constructed by Queen Lady K’awiil Ajaw of Coba.  

In the heart of the Yucatán Peninsula in México​, an ancient Mayan sacbe, or white road, stretches for 62 miles between the archaeological sites of Yaxuna and Coba— Mayan towns that were founded over 2,500 years ago. The sacbe was said to be built by Lady K’awiil Ajaw, the warrior queen of Coba who was fighting to save her city from the growing Chichén Itzá. As a show of strength she created this engineering marvel to move her armies— part of which is still preserved today but lost to the jungle between the two ancient cities. 

The sacbe was built between 600 AD and 1000 AD, 26 feet wide and 16-18 inches off the ground— it was an engineering feat that rivaled any of the great Mayan pyramids. The sacbes were built with a type of concrete similar to what was used in Roman construction, and because they were covered in white limestone they were said to glow at night.

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About the Expedition

Over the course of a month, I will traverse the sacbe, trekking the 62 miles through dense jungle on the remnants of the powerful road that once connected thousands of people and small villages between the two ancient cities of Yaxuna and Coba. I’ll document the expedition through photographs, as well as sharing the story on social media, and any archaeological findings along the way— following the path Queen Lady K’awiil Ajaw is said to have created as a struggle for power over 1500 years ago in the peninsula. I’ll spend 15-20 days traversing the sacbe, then will spend the remaining days editing the photos and content to share. I would be the first female in modern times to cross the sacbe, making the journey from Yaxuna to Coba— it hasn’t been done since Alfonso Villa Rojas— a school teacher working on the restoration project at Chichén Itzá— made the journey in 1933. Nothing says alpha female more than crossing an impenetrable jungle on an ancient road a warrior queen created. 

Why This Expedition?

Worldwide, only 23% of wilderness remains— the last wild places on Earth are disappearing. In order to protect these places, people have to care about them. I work on expeditions to bring far flung places to people in their homes via storytelling so they can be part of the adventure, so they can experience these incredible places and the magic of discovery. By creating a sense of adventure and wonder at the natural world and its ancient cultures, more people will care about these far flung places and ruins, and they can understand their importance through storytelling, and why we need to save and preserve them.

“The stars we are given. The constellations we make. That is to say, stars exist in the cosmos, but constellations are the imaginary lines we draw between them, the readings we give the sky, the stories we tell.”⁣

—Rebecca Solnit

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Gear List

Technical Gear
Rehydration salts
Epi Pen
Bee Alert
Alacramyn antidote scorpion venom

Big Agnes Tent
Big Agnes Sleeping Pad
Knife (side belt for bee spray and knife)
Camera gear
Satellite phone

Photo Gear
Sony Alpha

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Sponsors + Partners

Maya Heritage Center