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Dos Pilas

Dos Pilas, Showing Defensive wall (B), made with Main palace (D), and temples, Elite housing in central Plaza (E)

Dos Pilas Gallery

Emblem glyph.       The site is located 17 km southwest from Sayaxché, Petén, and can be reached by 4 WD (2 hours drive, or hiking or on horseback, from Aguateca, or Punta de Chimino, where you can also rent ATVs, on Petexbatún lake, the protected area is 32 Km2, that also includes 2 other sites: Arroyo de Piedra, 4 Km. east, and Tamarindito 3 Km. west, also a number of caves that show ceremonial occupation are in this protected site. This site has 500 mounds and it owes its name to 2 natural springs (pilas) in the entrance, it was fortified with a wall made by dismantled temples and ball court,  but could not protected it from its destruction. Thus it has few entrances, the Duende (elf) Pyramid is the tallest in La Pasión river region, but its main feature is in the hieroglyphic staircases uncovered recently in a Palace (str. L5-49), that tells the history of the "Star wars" and rivalry between Dos Pilas (Yax Mutul), Calakmul, Naranjo and Tikal and its neighbors. This was the first great city to be abandoned , where the Classic Maya Collapse started.

Panel 19

The new excavation in Structure L5-49 hieroglyphic staircases, reveals that in the first quarter of the seventh century BALAJ CHAN K’AWIIL, the younger son of K’INICH MUWAANHN JOL, was born and sent to establish a Tikal presence at the newly founded site of Dos Pilas some 70 miles southwest of Tikal and just 2.5 miles from the already existing center of Arroyo de Piedra, an earlier capital in the Petexbatún, and roughly five miles further west from Tamarindito, another older kingdom in the region. The establishment of this new city in the midst of what was already an area occupied by a resident population could only be to establish an outpost of control by Tikal of the area in the La Pasión basin. A royal viceroy and enough soldiers could very well play that role.

Stela 16

The patterns of correlation in Pasión/Usumacinta kingdoms histories have now been made clear by the combined epigraphic evidence from Dos Pilas especially, and the unexpected discovery on 2005,  of the central dynastic text of the Petexbatún kingdom on temple L5-49 at Dos Pilas. Combined with the previous evidence from the Petexbatún project and other recent excavations, these new findings show that the histories of the western kingdoms can no longer be explained in terms of local or even regional histories. This critical trade artery was, from the beginning of the Classic period, if not earlier, a target of control by the major interregional powers of the Maya world. Earlier culture-historical interpretations  have not fully recognized the central role of these constant international interventions in the histories of this region.

In the past, accepted knowledge and conventional wisdom stated that around 650 A.D., a dynastic conflict ensued in Mutul (Tikal) resulting in the flight of some of Tikal’s elite and a member of the royal family to the Petexbatún city of Dos Pilas where they founded a kingdom that lasted for about 160 years and which for better or worse was "Predator State", a powerful militaristic state of the likes that not been seen, even for a war and strife civilization like the Maya. The famous warrior Wac' Chanil Ahau  or Lady Six Sky that regain the Power in Naranjo (Sa'al) to the east was born here. the rulers of Dos Pilas even took Tikal's´ Emblem Glyph at its beginning.

In the course of that century and a half, Dos Pilas fought, captured or forced an alliance with several sites up and down the Pasión drainage and as far east as Machaquilá and south to Cancuén. (1,500 sq Miles). The reasons for this expansion were thought to be simply the result of the triumph of the new kings in a "civil war" between the two brothers who claimed Tikal’s crown.

While part of this scenario can be proven correct, the reasons and implications of the rivalry between Dos Pilas and Tikal certainly arise from far deeper causes. According to the above description, the trade route that used the Pasión–Usumacinta rivers was key to the history of the central and western Petén. The river route begins in Cancuén to the south, where it becomes navigable, and connects the highlands of Guatemala to the great capitals of kingdoms like Ceibal, Tres Islas, Altar de Sacrificios, Yaxchilán, Piedras Negras, and the Palenque region as it flows into the Gulf of México. This route was used from the late Preclassic on, and served to connect with the central Petén by trails, and to the Caribbean through the San Juan–Salsipuedes–Mopán river systems or through the Machaquilá–Mopán rivers.

Maya Commerce Routes
Mesoamerican Commerce
Routes and goods
production, from the
Pre Classic to
the Post Classic

In the forty years between the defeat of Tikal by Calakmul and later by Dos Pilas, the control of the riverine trade routes was in the hands of the Snake Kingdom, using Dos Pilas and others as proxies. However in 695, YUKNO’M YICH’AAK K’AHK’ of Calakmul (Kanal), was defeated by the new ruler of Tikal, JASAW CHAN K’AWIIL, NU’N U JOL CHAAK’s heir. This defeat of Calakmul and his strongest allied, Waka', restores Tikal’s preeminence in the Central Maya region, but never again in the southwest where Dos Pilas maintained its presence until its final downfall in 761 when K’AWIIL CHAN K’INICH was killed or exiled, and which signified the destruction of the site and the splintering of the hegemony into smaller kingdoms such as Aguateca, Ceibal, La Amelia. These smaller polities were not able to dominate the basin. Furthermore Calakmul’s demise resulted in conflicts between Yaxchilán and Piedras Negras in the lower Usumacinta, blocking the once free flow of goods through the river. By the end of the eighth century many of the riverine capitals and their kingdoms had been abandoned or were about to be and therefore trade between Petén, the upper Pasión and the highlands ceased and a change in production and interchange of ceramics for example, was redirected inland.. At the same time Jade, pyrite, quetzal feathers, obsidian, and other exotic goods from the highlands became difficult or impossible to obtain, it was the begging of the Classic Maya  Collapse. Another feature of this site are its Caves system with ancient use documented.



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Last updated 28/01/2011 17:07:37 -0500
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