Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Game of Mayan Thrones

The ancient Maya city of Naachtun was founded around 400 BC. At its peak between 500 and 800 AD the city had a population of 20,000 people, multiple pyramids, grand public buildings, more than 40 inscribed stele and a massive palace complex spread out over four hectares.

 Calakmul and Tikal (in the center of the map)

Naachtun was the capital of the Masuul kingdom. It was located about 27 miles south of Calakmul, and 40 miles north of Tikal; the two superpowers of the Maya world. Calakmul and Tikal were locked in a frequently vicious fight for supremacy, they hated each other's guts, fought wars, and captured each other's kings.

This location gave Naachtun great strategic importance. Whether they were fighting each other or trading with allied city-states, Calakmul and Tikal had to go through Masuul, and the city profited ably. Masuul changed sides repeatedly, its uniquely formidable defenses (walls 13 feet high made out of large limestone blocks) allowed Naachtun to prosper during centuries of war.

Recent deciphered steles at Masuul tell this story: At January 16th, 378 AD. Tikal was defeated by forces from Teotihuacan. Masuul was an ally of Teotihuacan during this battle for Tikal. 

Teotihuacan, modern-day Mexico City, is almost 800 miles northwest of Tikal, but that didn’t stop general Siyah K’ak’ (Fire Is Born) from killing Tikal’s king Chak Tok Ich’aak (Great Jaguar Paw), conquering the city and installing the six-year-old king Yax Nuun Ayin (First Crocodile), son of a figure known as Spearthrower Owl who was probably the ruler of Teotihuacan. First Crocodile married a daughter of the displaced Tikal ruling family and started a new dynasty.


next episode: Broadway


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