Cancuén is an archaeological site of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization, located in the Pasión subregion of the central Maya lowlands in the present-day Guatemalan Department of El Petén. The city is notable for having one of the largest palaces in the Maya World.
Cancuén was a major city during the Classic Period, reaching its peak during the 7th century. The city was a major trade center, specializing in jade, pyrite and obsidian. Its strategic position on the river Pasion helped it dominate trade in the region. Tajal Chan Ahk, one of the city's most powerful rulers, built the city's palace in 770 A.D. The palace covered nearly 23,000 square meters and contained 200 rooms, making it the largest in the Maya area.
The site was rediscovered in 1905 by Austrian explorer Teoberto Maler. No major temples or burial sites were reported in the initial investigations, leading archaeologists to believe it had been a minor or subsidiary site. Cancuén was largely ignored until 1967, when students from Harvard University uncovered the ruins of the largest Palace in the Maya world, with more than 200 rooms and 12 Patios, its walls are up to 1.8m thick, it has more than 200,000-square-foot (19,000 m2).
Further investigations showed that the size of the structure and the entire site had previously been underestimated; it is now thought that a "maze of hundreds of rooms with 20-foot-high, arched ceilings" covered at least 3 square miles (7.8 km2).
Subsequent archaeological expeditions were launched following the discovery of the palace, including teams from Vanderbilt University and the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala. The National Geographic Society is also connected to the excavations.