After overtaking the earlier site of
Kaminal Juy˙, now named Kaminaljuyˇ, turned into a large Ceremonial
Maya site, That shows the longest occupation of
any Archeological site in America (1500 BC to 1200 AD) located in the
Central highlands, Guatemala, now within modern
Guatemala City. its Ancient name
was Tulam Tzu, one
of the 5 Tulas in the Maya Tradition (The Central Tulan).
Kaminal Juy˙ enjoyed access to a variety of strategic mineral and
agricultural resources (e.g.
interregional trade routes. It is during the first part of the Late Preclassic period (ca. 400 B.C.-A.D. 100) that it became a state (ValdÚs
and Hatch 1996; Ponciano 2000), and extended its political control
beyond the Valley of Guatemala, possibly incorporating areas like
the Salama Valley, by ca. 400 B.C. (Sharer and Sedat 1973, 1987).
It developed a diverse sculptural and
scribal tradition with strong
links to sites in the
slopes of Chiapas, Guatemala, and El Salvador, and the
lowlands. The earliest texts from the Mayan region, El Portˇn
Monument 1 (ca. 450-350 B.C.) and Kaminal Juy˙ Stela 10 (ca. 400-200
Routes and goods
production, from the
Pre Classic to
the Post Classic
Kaminaljuy˙ has been described as one of the greatest of
all archaeological sites in the New World by Michael Coe,
although the remains of the site today are less impressive than
many other Maya sites more frequented by tourists. This
important site has revealed a lot about Maya ceramics, sculpture, architecture and engineering. This site was the main producer of
Obsidian from Quarries
largest being El Chayal, to the west, and also controlled the
commerce routs between the
Pacific Lowlands, The
PetÚn Lowlands for centuries. The site lies in a valley in
the west side of Guatemala
City and contains a total of over 100 platforms and mounds created before the
end of the Pre Classic period (ending approximately AD 150). The valley is
surrounded by hills which culminate in a string of lofty volcanoes to the south
that separate the area from the Pacific Lowlands. The climate is temperate and
the soil is rich. The area was largely swallowed up by real estate developments
in the late 20th century, although a portion of the center of Kaminaljuy˙ is
preserved as a park.
The Stela 10
(late Preclassic), in Kaminaljuy˙, has the
glyphs in Cho┤lan Maya, the language used in the Classic Lowlands sites,
suggesting that the origin of this language was in the
and that the relationships between the
PetÚn and the
Highlands, were closer than previously though. Then, during the
Terminal Late Preclassic period (ca. A.D. 100-200) a combination of
internal and external factors resulted in the collapse of the site
by ca. A.D. 200 Kaminaljuy˙ĺs sculptural and scribal
links to the Pacific coast and the Mayan lowlands came to an end.
Federico Fahsen (2000:2) has shown that several sculptures at
Kaminal Juy˙ carved during this time exhibit captive-display scenes,
which he suggests could be evidence of the military conflict that
may have led to the
cityĺs collapse. The sites of El Portˇn and
Tak'alik Abaj experienced a marked
decline, probably as a result of the events at Kaminaljuy˙, and
their scribal traditions also come to an end (Hatch et al. 2000).
There is evidence for the outright systematic destruction of all
glyphic texts at the site, possibly carried out by the invaders (Fahsen
2000), although internal conflict has also been suggested (Parsons
1986, 1988). It appears that there was a major ceramic
discontinuity in parts of Kaminaljuy˙, suggesting that part of the
was replaced; those who remained quickly assimilated
culturally to the new occupants (Hatch 2000). What happens after
this is an intriguing problem.
are Stela 10 (late Verbena phase, 400-200 B.C.),
Altars 1 and 2
(early Arenal phase, 200 B.C.-A.D.), Monument 65 (early Arenal
phase, 200 B.C.-A.D.), Stelas 15 and 21 (late Arenal phase, A.D.
1-100), and a jade earring 400 B.C.-A.D.
100. The text in the
earring bears the name of a personage, STEP-SHARK
or (EBĺ-XOK), also known to be the name of
the founder of the
Tikal dynasty, and who
is thought to have acceded ca. A.D. 90 (Martin and Grube 2000:27).
Thus, the earring could have been inscribed and transported to
Kaminaljuy˙ prior to the cessation of its scribal and sculptural
tradition.! It may have become an heirloom, passed down from
generation to generation, until it was finally interred during the
Late Preclassic Stela
It is curious
that while most Late Preclassic Mayan inscriptions are found on
portable objects, no such examples have been documented for Kaminaljuy˙, other than the Early Classic jade earring. This may be the
result of looting during the expansion of Guatemala City. It is
possible that some of the well-known unprovenance Late Preclassic
inscriptions may have come originally from Kaminal Juy˙ or elsewhere
Mayan highlands (Coe 1973; Porter 1996).
The Kaminaljuy˙ jade
earring in fact bears close stylistic and calligraphic resemblances
with several unprovenance Late Preclassic texts.
The site was first excavated in 1925 by Manuel Gamio when he made stratigraphic
excavations and found deep cultural deposits yielding potsherds
and clay figurines from the Middle to late Preclassic (1500 BC -
150 AD). Later the extent of the
siteĺs importance was discovered in 1935 when a local football club began
cutting away the edges of two inconspicuous mounds to lengthen their practice
field. They uncovered a buried structure and the name was given: (Kaminal Juy˙
from the Ki┤chÚ words meaning ôhills of the dead." )
The Pre Classic phase, sometimes called Miraflores, (The phase
names are the names where this deposits where found), were the
underlying base that made a foundation for later eras of the Classic
Maya to flourish. Cultures of this phase had
a stable agricultural
community. The remains from this time period are very abundant at Kaminaljuy˙. One period, the Middle Pre Classic, which lasted from approximately 800 to 300 BC.
Excavations at Kaminaljuy˙ indicate the communities of the Middle Pre Classic,
were sedentary and large enough to produce heavy refuse deposits. They grew and
cotton in the Escuintla area and practiced loom-weaving and were expert potters. Religious practices
that would later be further developed throughout Mesoamerica were taking root at
this time, such as mounds to serve as substructures for small shrines or temples
and ritual burial of the dead. The abundance of remains from this period at Kaminaljuy˙ indicate it was the seat of a large community. Strong relationships
with Monte Alto,
Lowlands, have been documented since the Middle
Preclassic to late Preclassic
Table showing Kaminaljuyu's phases
1500-1000 B.C. ArÚvalo Phase settlement around Lake
Miraflores. Dominated by the nearby site of
1000-400 B.C. Las Charcas Phase, social differentiation,
Majadas Canal Miraflores, Providencia Phase, effective control
labor, monumental public architecture, prestige goods.
Naranjo is overtaken, Verbena statehood, Salamß
200 B.C.-A.D. 100 Arenal Phase, Valley incorporated,
hieroglyphic script, Canal San Jorge.
A.D. 100-200 Santa Clara Phase, drying up of lake, Canal Mirador, decline and takeover, script tradition ends,
elite diaspora, partial population replacement.
A.D. 200-400 Aurora Phase, population decline, destruction of
A.D. 400-550 Esperanza Phase, New Architecture and
A.D. 550-900 Amatle Phase, population growth. end of
Teotihuacan influence, new sculptural styles.
A.D. 000-1200 Late Esperanza Phase, city abandonment.
Las Charcas phase inhabited Kaminal
Juy˙ during this Middle Preclasssic
Period, which is evident by the stratigraphic position of Las Charcas deposits
below those of the Late Preclassic period. Scattered Las Charcas remains
throughout the Valley of Guatemala mark a major occupation of the area.
There are two major mounds at the site of Kaminaljuy˙: Mound A and Mound B.
Mound A contains most of the material culture of Las Charcas, although there is
evidence for a small amount of activity at Mound B during the Middle Peclassic. A burial in Mound A, containing 8 corpses, one corpse may have received special treatment, as
evident by the considerable amount of jewelry and the offerings left with it.
There appears to be no evidence that human sacrifice played a role in the burial
of these eight individuals.
Excavators suggest the possibility of fabric mats or animal hides. Among the
objects found as offerings in the tomb were jade beads
around the necks of two
of the corpses, wafer-like disc shells forming a choker on one skeleton, jade
earplug flares, an unusually large amount of shells, a fine obsidian blade, a
tortoise shell, metates, and various fine pottery pieces including a whistling
jar and a carved tripod vessel. There was also several coarse brown ware vessels
heaped against the wall of the tomb.
Many of the artifacts from Las Charcas not associated with burials were found in
pits or Chultunes.
There were principally two types of pits: shallow bowl-like pits and
bottle-shaped pits. The shallow pits were possibly used for digging
clay to be used in building and later to hold refuse. Carbonized
maize cobs and remnants of textiles, basketry, mats and rope fragments have been found
in those that are bottle-shaped. It is thought these pits were perhaps used for
cooking, storage and/or refuse containers. These pits are not found in any other
occupation in Guatemala.
The distinctive Maya style of pottery had its beginnings in Las Charcas phase.
The pottery during this time period shows more careful
shaping and more tasteful
decorations than the later pottery of Kaminaljuy˙. The exquisite white ware
with red designs such as spider monkeys, dragon masks and abstract designs are
unique to Las Charcas village culture. Tripod vessels, incense burners and
whistling vessels with human and animal effigies are among the other clay
pottery created by Las Charcas. A majority of these pieces survive only as
potsherds in middens. Those that remain intact are found primarily in the
mortuary offerings of the tomb in Mound A. They give an indication of the expert
pottery skills and artistic development of Las Charcas people.
Hand-modeled clay female figurines are also highly characteristic of Las Charcas
culture. Those found at Kaminaljuy˙ are generally of reddish brown clay and
some have a white slip. These female figurines are often pregnant and are
thought to have been offerings to promote fertility in the fields.
arms and legs of the figures are mere stumps but some attempt at a realistic
body shape has been made. The head has received the most attention to detail.
The nose was pinched into the relief and nostrils were made by punctuating the
clay. The eyes and the mouth were formed by strategically applied lumps. The
figurines often have earplug flares. Don't miss the Museum Miraflores visit, You
will learn and see the Great Importance of Kaminaljuy˙.
Other recent digs
have revealed stone monuments, altars and figurines at
near Kaminaljuy˙, that was occupied as early as 800 B.C.
Dr. Stuart said, "is proving to be one of the most exciting
excavations in the Maya area."
The chief investigator, Barbara Arroyo of the University of San Carlos
in Guatemala, said Naranjo was an important ritual site near a water
spring. The origin of the
gods is associated with places where water
flows. In his autobiography, "Final Report," recently
published by Thames & Hudson, Dr. Coe, the Yale Mayanist, concluded:
"The great age of Maya archaeology is far from over. In fact, it's