Tags: Bonampak, Chiapas, Maya ruins, Mexico

Date: March 20, 2019

After going to Yaxchilan, we went to stay in the jungle at a village called Lacanja Chansayab. It is close to a Maya site called Bonampak, which we visited the next day.

We saw many leaf cutting ants in this area:

Bonampak is a fairly small site with one large structure:

The biggest stele:

This bottom part shows Itzamna, the earth monster, holding up the ruler:

Most of the large Maya structures are built on top of older structures. Here, you can see the decorated wall of an older part of the large building:

Another place where archaeologists have exposed old decorations:

A butterfly:

A big tree in front of the structure has many hanging bird's nests:

A smaller stele:

This is the most famous building of Bonampak, containing unique paintings:

On the roof in each doorway, there is a picture. Together their form a series showing a ruler capturing and executing an enemy:

Even though the three carvings form a series, they also represents different events and different persons capturing a prisoner. The first carving depicts a capture that happened on January 12 of the year 787 and the capturer is Yajaw Chaan Muwan, ruler of Bonampak. The second depicted capture happened on January 4, 787, and was by Itzamnaaj B'alam IV, ruler of Yaxchilan. The last one shows Aj Sak Teles who was the father of Yajaw Chaan Muwan (the one in the first carving) executing his prisoner. The last event probably happened on July 25, 780. During this time Bonampak was under control of Yaxchilan, so it is natural for rulers of both Yaxchilan and Bonampak to appear together. The Maya calendar has been completely deciphered, so amazingly, exact dates are known for many events.

Inside the three rooms, there are amazingly well preserved paintings showing different events in vivid colors. This is from the leftmost room, showing processions and other preparations for war:

The paintings in the middle room are not in a good shape, but they show a great battle. In fact they have been referred to as the greatest battle scene in all Maya art.

These are from the rightmost room which shows the victory celebrations after the battle:

Before finding these rooms with the detailed paintings, it was widely believed that the historic Mayans were peaceful people, but that is not the case any more. The paintings in the third room even shows a human sacrifice with someone holding the still beating heart of a victim, however, we did not capture that motif in our photos.

The outside of this building used to be entirely painted in many colors, but most of the paint is gone now.

Carving in the ceiling of another doorway:

There is a great view from the top of the structure:

Behind the buildings, even more steps are found:

The trees are good places for smaller plants to establish themselves: