Yaxchilan (also sometimes historically referred to by the names Menché and City Lorillard) is an ancient Maya city locateed on the Usumacinta River in what is now the state of Chiapas, Mexico. The ancient name for the city may have been Izancanac.

Ancient Yaxchilan

This was a large center, important thruout the Classic era, and the dominant power of the Usumacinta area. It dominated such smaller sites as Bonampak, and was long allied with Piedras Negras and at least for a time with Tikal; it was a rival of Palenque, with which Yaxchillan warred with in 654. Yat-Balam, founder of long dynasty, took throne in on 2 August, 320 when Yaxchilan was a minor site. The city-state grew to a regional capital and the dynasty lasted into the early 9th century. Yaxchillan had it's greatest power during the long reign of King Shield Jaguar II, who died in his 90s in 742.

Yaxchillan is known for the large quantity of excellent scupture at the site.

Rediscovery and Modern History of Yaxchilan

Lintel 24, structure 23, Yaxchilan (drawn by Charnay)
The scuplture depicts a sacred blood-letting ritual which took place on
26 October, 709. King "Sheild Jaguar" is shown holding a torch, while Queen "Lady Xoc" draws a rope through her pierced tongue.

The first published mention of the site seems to have been a brief mention by Juan Galindo in 1833. Professor Edwin Rockstoh of the National College of Guatemala visited in 1881 and published another short account. Explorers Alfred Maudslay and Desire Charnay arrived here within days of each other in 1882, and they published more detailed accounts of the ruins with drawings and photographs. Teoberto Maler visited the site repeatedly from 1897 to 1900 and published a detailed two volume description of Yaxchilan and nearby sites in 1903.

In 1931 Sylvanus Morley lead a Carnegie Institution expedition to Yaxchillan, mapped the site and discovered more monuments.

The Mexican National Institute of Anthropology & History (INAH) conducted archeological research at Yaxchilan in 1972 - 1973, again in 1983, and further INAH work was conducted in the early 1990s.

Further Reading

  • Yaxchilan, The Design of a Maya Ceremonial City, by Carolyn E. Tate, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1992. ISBN 0-292-77041-3