Unlikely Art: Maya Story Revealed
The classic Mayan site of Bonampak, located deep in the jungles of Chiapas, Mexico
, holds one of the most unlikely and important discoveries in the history of Mayan archaeological investigation. The story of the wall murals is a story of an unlikely survival in the harsh jungle conditions of Chiapas. It was widely believed that the structures of the Maya were covered in brightly painted murals and designs, but due to the climatic conditions of the rainforest the organic paint materials employed by the Maya could not survive. However, due to a unique set of circumstances at Bonampak, three rooms in the Temple of the Murals remained sealed to the environment over the centuries and saved the paintings from certain destruction. Until the discovery and analysis of these painted depictions of Maya ritual and social life were discovered in the 1940's, many archaeologists believed the Maya were a mostly peaceful, egalitarian society of stargazing priests and nobles. After the content of the walls were understood, a completely different story of class stratification, ritual warfare, and human sacrifice began to emerge, changing the direction of Maya studies ever since. Bonampak is somewhat isolated in the middle of nowhere, but can be visited as part of a long day trip from Palenque. Try to include a visit to another important Maya site called Yaxchilan.