We’re excited to report that just days after we visited the site of Toniná, in southern Chiapas, Mexican archeologists discovered two ancient statues that many believe offer important clues as to the relationships between certain city-states of the time. The 1,300-year-old, life-size statues depict two Mayan warriors who are believed to have been captives of Toniná as their hands are bound behind their backs.
Hieroglyphic inscriptions on their loincloths and chest lead archeologists to believe that the warriors were from the city of Copan, many miles south of Toniná on the border of current-day Guatemala and Honduras. While local archeologists take these statues as proof that Copan had been fighting along side warriors from Palenque (north of Toniná) in a combined effort to control the Usumacinta River (which now marks the boundary between Mexico and Guatemala), David Stuart, a specialist in Mayan epigraphy at the University of Texas at Austin disagrees and feels that, “…these two statues refer to prisoners already known from other Toniná inscriptions, and I suspect they are probably more local to the Chiapas region.”
Stuart believes the main purpose of the sculptures was to commemorate a dedication of the ballcourt at Tonina on June 27, 696. Interestingly, two stone score-cards used during the ballcourt games were also found with the statues – many Mayan civilizations believed spilled blood “gave life” to structures like ballcourts and temples.
Either way, it’s clear that there is still much to be learned about the ancient Mayan civilizations of the region. As we often like to point out, what is currently visible at most of the archeological sites in Mexico is just a fraction the entire site. For example, the 30 temples and buildings of Uxmal are an incredible site explore, yet archeologists have yet to uncover more than 300 other structures at the site!
These findings in Toniná come just two weeks after we posted an article about a robotic camera that had captured new images of an ancient tomb at Palenque. As you can see, there’s never a dull moment for fans of archeological travel in Mexico!