Bonampak mural from Room 1
Clickable Bonampak site map
Bonampak mural segment from Room 1

Interactive map of Bonampak | Click on arrows to view photos

A Note on the Murals of Bonampak

Bonampak's murals as well as stela 2 depict ruler Chaan Muan II performing rituals associated with the investure of his infant son over a two year period from 790 to 791 AD.

Because Bonampak had been conquered by neighboring Yaxchilan as long ago as 600 AD and Chaan Muan II was married to the sister of Yaxchilan's Shield Jaguar, there is speculation that Chaan Maun himself had been installed as ruler by Shield Jaguar.

It is sobering to realize that by the time the murals were completed, Bonampak was suffering from deforestation, exhausted farmland, and overpopulation. Both Bonampak and its patron state Yaxchilan completely collapsed by 900 AD and were abandoned. Elite society in the region ended, and forest reclaimed the area. Later when the Spanish invaders arrived they found the area sparsely inhabited.

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.

Bonampak: House of the Murals Room 1 Bonampak: Stela 2 Bonampak: Stela 1 Bonampak: Entrance to the acropolis Bonampak: View from acropolis with Stela 1 in foreground