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Kaminaljuyú, a Formative and Classic Period Maya site in (and mostly destroyed by) the suburbs of modern Guatemala City. The source of its importance was the El Chayal obsidian deposits 12 miles northeast. Through exploitation of this resource, it became sufficiently strong to resist Olmec inroads into the southern highlands. Its location provides trade access to the west and north across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to the Gulf, northward into the Petén and the southern Maya lowlands, and southward to the Pacific Coast and Central America. Though independent of the Olmecs, Kaminaljuyú must have served as a major conduit of cultural influences reaching the Mayas from the Olmec region via Izapa, to which Kaminaljuyú is stylistically linked.

As Teotihuacán rose to power about 150 ce, Kaminaljuyú became a major trading partner or a colony. The distinctive Teotihuacán talud-tablero (sloping-table) style of terrace facings on platforms and pyramids appears on several structures in one area of the site tied to this era. Teotihuacán dress on sculptured monuments and funerary furnishings in elaborate tombs further document the Teotihuacán links. (Alfred V. Kidder and E. M. Shook excavated two tombs in Structure E-III-3 and reported finding sacrificial victims, jadeite beads, a mask, headdress, obsidian blades, stingray spines, stuccoed gourds, and quartz crystals.) Some scholars believe that Kaminaljuyú was initially conquered by Teotihuacán warriors, integrated into the Teotihuacán trade networks, and sustained by the rule of the descendants of local marriages. Kaminaljuyú was both a commercial and dynastic link between Tikal and Teotihuacán; and perhaps Curl Nose (ruler of Tikal, late fourth century ce) married into the Tikal ruling lineage from Kaminaljuyú.

Subsequent interpretations of Kaminaljuyú's developmental history suggest even greater links to nearby Maya cities like Tikal, and a broader elite ideology shared by Teotihuacán and Mayan rulers.

See alsoOlmecs; Teotihuacán; Tikal.


Alfred V. Kidder, J. D. Jennings, and E. M. Shook, Excavations at Kaminaljuyú, Guatemala (Carnegie Institution of Washington, publication 561, 1946).

E. M. Shook and A. V. Kidder, Mound E-III-3, Kaminaljuyú, Guatemala (Carnegie Institution of Washington, publication 596, 1952).

William T. Sanders and J. W. Michels, Teotihuacán and Kaminaljuyú: A Study in Prehistoric Cultural Contact (1977).

Additional Bibliography

Braswell, Geoffrey E. "Dating Early Classic Interaction between Kaminaljuyu and Central Mexico." in The Maya and Teotihuacan: Reinterpreting Early Classic Interaction edited by Geoffrey E. Braswell. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003.

Hatch, Marion Popenoe. Kaminaljuyú/San Jorge: Evidencia arqueológica de la actividad económica en el Valle de Guatemala, 300 a.C. a 300 d.C. Guatemala: Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, 1997.

Michels, Joseph W. The Kaminaljuyu Chiefdom. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1979.

Parsons, Lee Allen. The Origins of Maya Art: Monumental Stone Sculpture of Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala, and the Southern Pacific Coast. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1986.

Valdés, Juan Antonio, and Jonathan Kaplan. "Ground-Penetrating Radar at the Maya Site of Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala." Journal of Field Archaeology Vol. 27, No. 3 (Autumn, 2000): 329-342.

                                   Walter R. T. Witschey