Yaxchilán

Mayan Archaeology > Chiapas > Chiapas

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A city lost among the thick layer of tropical forests, beside the Usumacinta River.

Yaxchilán, which means “green stones” in Mayan, is known for its large number of architectural structures and inscriptions. There is text all over the site, on stelae, altars, doors and lintels.

It was an important and powerful city by the end of 600 B.C., and was an example of the social complexity that characterized the Classic Mayan of the Low Lands (250 – 900 A.D.). It ruled over other smaller cities such as Bonampak, and was allied with Piedras Negras and Tikal for a long time. It had a major battle against Palenque, documented in 654 A.D.

PTo build the settlement, the Mayans took advantage of the terrain’s characteristics, in a peninsula surrounded by a bend of the Usumacinta River.

The city’s surface is very wide, however only a few buildings are open to visitors. The Great Plaza is accessed through the Labyrinth, named so due to the complex distribution of its rooms. In the plaza there is a ball court and small groups of buildings. Lintels that narrate the dynastic history of the city can still be found in several constructions. Buildings 12 and 22 are highlights. The great Stela 1 stands over the plaza displaying Bird Jaguar IV.

There is an impressive staircase that links the plaza to the Great Acropolis, dominated by the magnificent Building 33, the grandest in the city. On the staircase, there are hieroglyphics of Bird Jaguar IV playing ball. On the lintels there is the decapitated sculpture of Bird Jaguar IV. A Lacandon legend says that when the head of Bird Jaguar goes back to its place, the world will be devastated by celestial jaguars.

UA narrow path links the Great Acropolis to the Small Acropolis and the South Acropolis, formed by two plazas and a group of buildings, of which 42 and 44 contain interesting inscriptions.

Hours
Monday through Sunday from 10:00 to 17:00
Rates
55 pesos
How to arrive

From Palenque, take the highway bordering the south to Frontera Corozal (163 kilometers), from there, make the one-hour boat journey to reach the archaeological site.

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Map and address

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It is located on a bend of the Usumacinta River. A small boat is taken to reach the archaeological site.