While there are two other archeological sites on Cancun Island, El Rey is the largest. This complex dates from the late post classic period (1200 - 1550 A.D.) and corresponds to the east coast architectural style found at Tulum and Xel-Ha. The site measures 520 mts. from north to south and 70 mts. from east to west.
There are 47 structures in the complex. The tallest structure was the civic-ceremonial center and the adjacent buildings served as housing for priests and royalty. Most of the remaining platforms were residential or storage buildings - which had wooden posts to support roofs made from palm branches (which last 15 to 20 years before needing replacement).
Archeological excavation determined that economic activity was based primarily on fishing. Likewise, the discovery of items made from basalt (a type of igneous rock of volcanic origin), flint, obsidium (volcanic natural glass), jade and quartz indicates that the Mayans had a well developed commercial trade based on sea routes along the Caribbean coast.
Since no one knows the original formal native Mayan name for the majority of archeological sites, early explorers often "invented" names for these places and the individual structures contained therein. sometimes these "new" names were the result of landmarks, familiar places back home which bore a similarity to what was being observed, or an assumption (guess) as to what the structure might have been used for. Equally, in more modern times, archeologists were forced to create their own "toponymy" (Greek word for naming things). This is the case with the El Rey site. In Spanish, "El Rey" means "the king." The officially designated name of this site is "Ruinas El Rey" (The King ruins). This came to be because the remains of a sculpture depicting a noble and a human skull were found in the principal building at the site.