The region's abundant cacao trees provided food and a livelihood for a booming Mayan population during the Classic period (100 BC to AD 1000). Comalcalco, which was founded in about the 1st century BC, marks the westernmost reach of the Maya; descendants of its builders, the Chontal, still live in the vicinity. Its name means "place of the clay griddles" (bricks) in Nahuatl, and it is Tabasco's most important Mayan site, unique for its use of fired brick (made of sand, seashells, and clay), as the area's swamplands lacked the stone for building. The bricks were often inscribed and painted with figures of reptiles and birds, geometric figures, and drawings before being covered with stucco.
The major pyramid on the Gran Acrópolis del Este (Great Eastern Acropolis) is adorned with carvings as well as large stucco masks of the sun god, Kinich Ahau. The burial sites here also depart radically from Mayan custom: the dead were placed in cone-shape clay urns, in a fetal position. Some have been left in situ, and others are on display in the site museum along with many of the artifacts that were uncovered here.