Bonampak Stela 1: Closeup of Chaan Maun's face and cape.

Stela I, Acropolis of Bonampak

Bonampak's Stela 1 represents the ruler Chaan Muan II at the height of his reign as he celebrates a calendar-ending period in AD 780. Chan Muan is also believed to be the protagonist portrayed in the murals as well as the subject of Stelae 2 and 3 which flank the acropolis stairway.

Chaan Muan's constume must have been extraordinary, and extraordinarily colorful, with a cape of jade and feathers, and the blue-green quetzal feathers of his headress.

Merle Green writes: "In falling, Stela 1 broke into about eight pieces, of which this is the largest. Unfortunately the top fragment fell face up and the rains of a millennium have eroded the rest of the headdress."

Ancient Maya Relief Sculpture: Rubbings by Merle Greene. The Museum of Primitive Art. New York, 1967


Bonampak Stela 1: At almost 20 feet, Stela 1 is one of the loftiest in the Maya world. The difficulty of hewing a monument of this size without fracturing is immense.

The importance of this lord is expressed in the way he is portrayed and the difficulty of hewing a monument of this size from a thin stone slab without fracturing. Given its height of almost 20 feet, Stela 1 is one of the loftiest in the Mayan world.

INAH Sign at Site


Bonampak Stela 1: Frontal view of the stela.

Chaan Muan's proud demeanor clearly signals an aristocratic personage. He is shown standing with a ceremonial staff in his right hand and a shield with feathers by his left forearm.

Merle Greene compares him to "some belted earl with his fringe of oliva shells encircling his wasp waist."

Ancient Maya Relief Sculpture: Rubbings by Merle Greene. The Museum of Primitive Art. New York, 1967


Bonampak Stela 1: Iconography.

At the bottom of the Stele you see an earth monster holding up the ruler (white rectangle: note eyes with half-closed eyelids, muzzle, mouth, and ear ornaments). From the cleft in the earth monsters forehead and on each side of his face the young corn god emerges. Hyeroglyphics on a band under Chaan Muan II's feet refer to his name glyph and geneology.

The artist who carved this stela actually signed his work to the left of the tip of Chan Maun II's staff. This signature associates the artist with the neighboring city-state of Yaxchilan. Bonampak had long been a vassel state of Yaxchilan (since around 600 AD), and Chaan Muan II was married to the sister of Shield Jaguar, the ruler of Yaxchilan.

There is speculation that Chaan Muan might have actually been installed as ruler of Bonampak under the auspices of Shield Jaguar.

The young corn god emereging from the sides of the earth monster's head Bonampak Stela 1: The name glyph of Chan Muan II Bonampak Stela 1: The artist's signature is immediately to the left of the tip of Chaan Muan's staff Bonampak Stela 1: The young corn god emerging from a cleft in the earth monster's head.