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Bonampak, a small pre-Hispanic Maya site in the southern Maya lowlands of Chiapas, Mexico. Bonampak is known for its stunning full-color fresco murals. The murals occupy the interior wall and ceiling surfaces of a small masonry building with three corbel-vaulted rooms. The long wall of the building, facing into a large plaza, has a separate entrance for each room.

The murals, preserved by a thin coating of limestone caused by roof seepage, are famed for the richness of information they provide about elite Maya society in the Late Classic Period (790 ce). The (probably historical) narrative scene depicts preparations for a raiding party, its successful return with captives, their torture, and finally the celebration of the event.

The mural of the first room includes preparations notable for the presence of a Maya band with trumpets, rattles, tortoise shells struck with deer antlers, and large drums and for conferences between the ruling chief and his nobles. The second room shows the raiding party and the torture of the captives (their fingernails drip blood). In the third room, the celebration includes dancing on the steps (those in front of the building) and ritual bloodletting rites by the ruler and his family.

The detail in the murals shows several changes of fine clothing, especially woven cloth and feather-work, loincloths of captives, footwear, weaponry, musical instruments, ceremonial rituals, paraphernalia, and sacrifices. They include hieroglyphic inscriptions with names of the participants, dates of the events, and descriptions of the ceremonies.

The site is 19 miles south of Yaxchilán, on the Usumacinta River, and has Yaxchilán emblem glyphs, but none of its own. The earliest and latest Maya long counts are (602 ce) and (790 ce).

See alsoMaya, The .


See Carnegie Institution of Washington, Ancient Maya Paintings of Bonampak, Mexico, suppl. publication 46 (1955), for full color reproductions of the Tejeda paintings and two Healy photographs. See also Sylvanus G. Morley and George W. Brainerd, The Ancient Maya, 4th ed. (1983), esp. pp. 315, 416-421.

Additional Bibliography

Miller, Mary Ellen. Maya Art and Architecture. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1999.

Miller, Mary Ellen. The Murals of Bonampak. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986.

Reyes-Valerio, Constantino. De Bonampak al Templo Mayor: El azul maya en Mesoamérica. México, D.F.: Siglo Veintiuno Editores: Agro Asemex, 1993.

                                             Walter R. T. Witschey

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