A comprehensive site survey and excavation program took place in 1995 and 1996 at the Maya center of Chac II (Chac) located within the Puuc hills region of Yucatan, Mexico. This work presents a body of evidence in support of the idea that Chac was an important center beginning in the Early Classic period (A.D. 300-600) that experienced significant foreign contacts. In addition, multifaceted data from surface, soil, architectural, and excavated contexts are addressing major questions pertaining to architectural and ceramic chronologies, the founding of the Puuc stoneworking tradition, site activity areas, and patterns of land use. Furthermore, dating indicates that Chac predated Sayil and that the two sites have a close geographical relationship. Also, terrace agriculture appears to have been widespread at Chac, contrasting greatly with Sayil where intensive gardening was widely practiced. In light of the new information from Chac, we argue that the traditional models of Puuc origins are inadequate. Investigations at a major Early Classic site in the heart of the Puuc region suggests that the region's rise was indigenous coupled with external ties to foreign groups reaching to central Mexico. The site of Chac is thus taking on strategic importance for understanding the origins of Puuc civilization, providing a rare opportunity to study a Maya center that was on the brink of urbanism in one of the most urban ancient Maya areas. These new data are helping to elucidate the nature of Maya urbanism in the Puuc region and establish the kinds of cultural links that existed between the northern Maya Lowlands and the rest of Mesoamerica during the Classic period.