Archaeology - Sites seen on the Usumacinta River Trips

Maya Expeditions' first trip to the Usumacinta was in 1985. Since then, it has become one of our most requested trips.

Now, Educational tours and presentations will be given by our trip archaeologists to groups traveling with Maya Expeditions. The only way to get to Piedras Negras is by river, and Maya Expeditions will take you, the same way we transported the first archaeological team in 1995, by river, through the canyons of the Sierra Lacandon Natural Reserve on the Usumacinta river. We can customize the trip for groups with special interests, such as shamanism, bird watching, architecture, astronomy, photography, et cetera.
Other Sites Visited on Piedras Negras Tours:
This formidable defensive sight is located in the "island" formed by the Usumacinta river bending in a horseshoe configuration. It was rediscovered by following the Lacandon Indians who made pilgrimages to its ritual center. Yaxchilan stelea date from 450-800 ad. and show a great variety of format and subject matter. According to Carolyn E. Tate, "The Maya...conceived the imagery of each monument in relation to meanings woven by was clear that cultural ideals and community identity were being forged through art. [Yaxchilan] itself was the work of art, not one which was passively admired, but one whose creation attracted ideal order into the lives of its inhabitants"
Located at the edge of the mountainous region of the Lacandon Forest and the dry lowland of the Yucatan Peninsula, Palenque formed an ideal location for trade. The site is noted for the unusual hierarchy of two women rulers. The second longest inscription in the Maya World is located at Palenque within the first temple that is believed to have been built specifically to house the deceased ruler, Pacal. All of this elaborate ritual justified his right to rule, as he was a descendent from a women ruler in the normal patriarchal system.
New Discoveries at Palenque - The current Palenque project has unearthed an elaborate tomb with a painted mural in Temple XX. The carved and painted throne, bearing an extensive hieroglyphic text, was found in Temple XIX. Both of these structures are located in the Cross Group complex. The ruler depicted on the throne was King Akhal Mo'Nab III (also known as Chaacal II), who ruled from AD 721-731. Temple XIX also yielded an 11 foot carved panel with a sculptured image of Akhal Mo'Nab III, shown with a second royal personage who kneels behind him and holds his hand.
The massive ruins of Tikal are concentrated at the center of the Tikal National Park ( 222 square miles ). The park is full of trails that lead to all the major archaeological groups: the Great Plaza, Temple 1 (Temple of the great Jaguar ), Temples 2,3 and 4, The Lost World, and the Inscriptions Temple. The richness of the forest in the area of Tikal ranges from huge trees with heights of up to 150 feet to a great variety of low and high ferns. Regarding bird watching, some two hundred and eighty-five species of birds have been recorded in Tikal. Please ask us about bird watching trips to Tikal, the Petexbatun area and Rio Azul, offered by top guides working on site at these natural and archaeological reserves.
This building houses the stealea and famous throne design found at Piedras Negras during the Pennsylvania excavations of 1939. The tractor used to haul these immense carvings for transport to the museum can still be seen in the jungles of Piedras Negras. The museum also houses the recent discoveries at Dos Pilas and the Petexbatun region. Various displays of Maya life, blood letting and death ritulas give one a more profound understanding of the cosmology of the Maya.
Getting to Ceibal is half of the fun. To visit this site you most first drive south from Flores to the Village of Sayaxche (69 Km), then take a short boat ride on La Pasion River, and then walk for about 45 minutes in the tropical rain forest. The site itself is beautiful, and although the temples are not as large as those in Tikal, the main stele is one of the most well preserved from the Late Classic Maya period and clearly bears signs of influence from the Toltec culture. A round temple of the Mayan Culture brings up curious discussions of its original use.
Located at the peninsula de Petexbatun, Aguateca faces the lagoon of the same name. This site is only 1 hour away from Sayaxche (by boat). The scenic boat ride will take you deep into the jungle from the Rio La Pasion to the small waterways of the Arroyo de Petexbatun. Twin city to Dos Pilas, Aguateca was fortified on a plateau above lake Petexbatun as rulers escalated warfare against neighboring city-states. Despite the walls and natural defenses, this fortress proved vulnerable and the settlement was overwhelmed sometime after 790, the date recorded in stele # 2, the last dated stele. New excavations from the Petexbatun Regional Project have discovered a mass abandonment due to savage fire caused by warfare. In this conflagration, many items used in the everyday life of the ancient Maya people were preserved underneath the rubble. Archaeologists are studying the daily life of the Maya and the unique ritual ceremonies that are often depicted on the steleas and ceramics found at most sites. Recent excvations in 1999 have unearthed new steleas that place the site of Aguateca under the reign of Tamarandito before Dos Pilas came into power.
This small site is located on a peninsula jutted out into the Lake Petexbatun. The motes dug out of the land connecting the Peninsula and the evidence of an additional 45 foot wall built as a stronghold give credence to the belief that there was continual warfare during the late classic period. Recent excavations suggest the influence or occupation of the not so distant site of Ceibal.
A long obscure Maya site, Planchon de las Figuras is only visible during the low water months of March through early June. It is a large rock beach where nearly 70 eroded carvings depicting animals, humans, mysterious spirals and large temple pyramids similar to those of Tikal can be found. These carvings etched out of the stone have survived the centuries even though they are covered by the waters of the Lacantun river for nearly 9 months out of the year. Perhaps they are the graffiti of Maya traders who traveled this route between the Altar de Sacrificios and Yaxchilan.
At the time of its exacavation, this site revealed extraordinary burial scenes with various ceramic plates covering the heads of the deceased in what seemed to be a form of ritual protection. All have been removed or reburied. The site has been abandoned and is now actually farmed. The stelea and altars we see are of a unique sandstone unlike the limestone of other sites. The last excavation left various open test digs, which enables us to examine the typical "fill" style of the Maya as many broken chards and obsidian flakes protrude from the now rain eroded walls.
The murals of Bonampak are vibrant with the colors used by the Maya in their art. There are three rooms which graphically show scenes of celebration, battle, and sacrafice. The scenes of pomp, warfare and intimacy helped Mayanist shape an image of the true life the Maya elite led. There is now a road that leads directly to the site which also aids the Lacandons indians which live in the area.
Don't miss the exiting and educational tours through ancient Maya civilizations that are currently being offered by Maya Expeditions!


Piedras Negras Mask behind Stelea on K5 temple - Maya Archaeology - Photo by Sergio Pitamitz





Petexbatun Sites

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