This is the story of two amazing Mayan Ruins located in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas; Yaxchilan and Bonampak. The two sites are located 30km from each other, with Yaxchilan being the more important of the two, ruling over its smaller neighbor. During the Late Classical Period, Yaxchillan was an influential city, strategically located on the banks of the Usumacinta River. Despite Yaxchillan’s importance, it is still off the beaten track, and the mostly jungle-covered ruins make this a fun archeological site to explore.
Yaxchilan was located along the south bank of the Usumacinta River – which today marks the border between Mexico and Guatemala – in a large horseshoe-shaped point that sticks out into Guatemala. It would have been an important city with such a strategic location. It was a rival of other Mayan cities nearby like Tikal and Palenque, and it had a long rivalry with Piedras Negras which was located to the north.
These two Mayan cities have always been connected – Yaxchilan was the more important of these two cities – and the short 30km distance between the two make them easy to visit on the same trip. Both these cities experienced their peak in the Late Classic Period, during which Yaxchilan was one of the most powerful and influential regional cities during its peak.
Yaxchilan was a large urban center located along the Usumacinta River and this strategic location allowed it to dominate the region culturally during its peak. It has a well excavated main plaza and many temples and palaces that overlook the river. Much of its history is known because of the many sculptures, carvings, and Hieroglyphs that have survived.
There were so many murals and carvings here that they were able to piece together the cities history. It took part in well-chronicled wars with its main rival Piedras Negras, located just to the north. It also fought against other regional powers like Tikal and Palenque.
Nearby Bonampak was built mostly during the Late Classical and was much smaller than Yaxchilain. It wasn’t a regional power, and was and mostly unimportant city historically, as it was a dependant of Yaxchillan.
What sets this location apart from others in the region are the many incredible murals that are unlike anything else found in Mexico. Especially found in the well-named Structure 1, the three tooms that make up “The Temple of Murals” helped paint a picture of life in the Mayan world, depicting scenes of war and human sacrifice.