Bonampak's unique importance comes from the vivid portrayal of Classic-era court life in its murals -- the finest mural paintings so far found in Middle America. The murals were discovered by an American, Giles Healy, who was sent to Chiapas in 1944 by the United Fruit Company to make a nature film. Having established a good relationship with the Lacandon, they took him to Bonampak in 1946, which was then overgrown and unknown to archaeologists. Wandering about the site, he saw nothing special until he poked his head into a small temple. Lighting a torch for a better look, he was awestruck by the interior paintings. Their discovery caused huge controversy among Mayan experts -- since the murals clearly depicted war, torture and bloody rituals at a time when it was believed the Maya were a peace loving people.

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