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 stelae date
from AD 450-800 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 symbols.. it was clear that cultural ideals and community
identity were being forged through art. The city [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”
YAXCHILAN was a large center, important throughout the Classic era, and the dominant power of the Usumacinta area. It dominated such smaller sites as Bonampak, and was at one time allied with Piedras Negras and at least for a time with Tikal; it was a rival of Palenque, with which Yaxchilan warred in 654. Yat-Balam, founder of a long dynasty, took the throne 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. Yaxchilan had its greatest power during the long reign of King Shield Jaguar II, who died in his 90s in 742. Yaxchilan is known for the large quantity of excellent sculpture at the site.