Machaquilá refers to a ruined city of the Maya civilization in what is now the El Peten department of Guatemala. There is also a small Guatemalan village several kilometers from the site that bears the name Machaquilá.
Machaquilá flourished in the middle Classic to late Classic era, reaching the height of its power in approximately the ninth century CE. The archaeological remains of the city are located 45 km. northeast of Cancuén and 30 km east to Ceibal, in a relatively isolated region, and the site is notable for its finely sculptured stelas, religious altars, hieroglyph panels, and ornate staircases. There are nine plazas in Machaquilá, along with ceremonial buildings, temples, and a residential complex to the south.
There are several smaller cities surrounding Machaquilá and the nearby San Miguel caves. There is evidence of human habitation at the sites dating from the pre-Classic to the early post-Classic periods. The Guatemalan sites known as Esquipulas, El Pueblito, and Achiotal have E-Groups and Mesoamerican ball courts, although Mayan scholars do not believe these sites were part of a formal state. There is evidence of political and trade relationships between El Pueblito and Machaquilá during the late Classic period, and with Ceibal and Cancuén. Mayans likely used the Machaquilá River as a waterway, as it is one of the main tributaries of the Pasión River.
Archaeologists in 2004 uncovered at Cancuen a hieroglyph panel that depicts Tajal Chan Ahk, the 8th-century king of the ancient Maya city-state of Cancuén. Carved in detailed high relief, the stone depicts the king seated on an Earth-like symbol and throne with a jaguar skin, installing subordinate Machaquilán rulers. However, even during periods of nominal subordination, the rulers of Machaquilá exhibited a significant degree of political autonomy.
To visit Machaquilá as well as the other sites, such as San Miguel and the Ceramic Caves, visitors must first travel to Poptún, as the bus routes are the same for both locations. Other historical sites of interest in the area include the Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología (National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology) and the hunting preserve known as Las Delicias.