More than 120 buildings and monuments receive the curious admiration of visitors to this archeological zone, one of the best representations of Mayan culture whose origin, splendor and ultimate decline have left a multitude of archeological clues that continue to surprise researchers and tourists alike. Government feats, ceremonial rituals and everyday life are some of the events recorded in a diverse series of hieroglyphs, much of which still await research by experts to open new windows into the past.
Located on the banks of the River Usumacinta, Yaxchilán in the state of Chiapas, invites to you wander through its plazas, altars, stairways, as well as admire its steles, sculptures and lintels that are proof to this astounding culture hidden in the jungle.
Getting here is an adventure by itself. Located 173 kilometers from Palenque, another archeological zone of vital importance, the first stop is the crossroads of Corozal on Federal Highway No. 199. From here, head 13km towards Frontera Corozal, where you will catch a boat which will take approximately 1 hour to get to the ruins.
For archeological enthusiasts who wish to visit one of the most important sites of Mayan culture, this will be a gratifying experience, as you will find over 100 sculptures with hieroglyphic inscription through which we are able to establish the chronological sequences of its rulers.
The archeological zone, which is open daily from 10AM to 5PM, is located in a protected natural area, rich in a diverse species of flora and fauna.
Yaxchilán achieved its height around 600 AD thanks to strategic conquests and alliances but was ultimately abandoned in 800 AD. This decline corresponds with many similar falls of Mayan cities in the region, referred to as the collapse of the Classical Mayan period between 800 and 900 AD.
The Great Plaza, the Great Acropolis and the South Acropolis make up around 120 buildings. This represents a great feat for travellers who, armed with photo and video cameras, attempt to seek the best viewpoints to capture fragments of the powers that once were of this great pre-Hispanic metropolis.
It was in the last 120 years of this ancient city that over 100 monuments with hieroglyphic texts were produced. They represent the protagonists from a range of events, mainly rulers which include some significant figures such as Shield Jaguar I (681 to 742 AD), Bird Jaguar IV (752 to 768 AD) and Shield Jaguar II (771 to 800 AD).
Building 19 serves as an entrance to this site. The upper levels feature a main hallway and some annexed rooms. Two narrow stairways lead to underground galleries that have small rooms. It is probable that this building was used in initiation rites for priests who simulated a journey into the underworld.
A bath to withstand the heat
Many look for this famous steam bath, which can be found in Building 17 of the Grand Plaza. The bath had characteristics of ritual functions and is believed to have been used in purification ceremonies, generally associated with the ball game.
Structure 14 is where the famed ball games took place, with two platforms that form the court. In it, there are five markers, three of which are found along the main axis and the rest along the embankment.
In the same area, structures 12, 13, 10, 74 and 11 together form an interesting group which seemed to have been used as a palace, similar to the palaces of Palenque and Tikal.
Close by, Building 6, also known as the Red Temple of Ribera, is known for its colorful stuccos. This place has even been visited by caravans of indigenous groups who carried out ritual ceremonies, proven by a considerable amount of Lacandon ceramics and prayer tablets.
Another building that stands out in this zone is Building 21 for its stele and stucco decoration, on which four women and a man are seen sitting on a stool flanked by an equal number of serpent heads whose jaws emerge from a figure of Tláloc, the water god of the Mayans.
A magnificent series of lintels decorate Building 33, which narrate the sequential dynasty of Yaxchilán. The last recorded date is between 800 and 808 AD when a lord known as Mahk’ina, “Cráneo” III takes over. From this moment on, hieroglyphic inscriptions cease and all building and commercial activities in this great Mayan city come to an end.
In its height, entry into these principal buildings of Yaxchilán was extremely restricted, only rulers and noble persons were allowed to pass through its doors for certain rituals. Fortunately, today this place is open to all tireless visitors and anyone who would like to marvel at these wonders of the past.