Archaeologists believe that Toniná (Tzeltal Maya for House of Stone) was the last major city-state to succumb to the abrupt and widespread collapse that struck the Classic Maya in the 9th century. While Palenque collapsed in A.D. 799 and Yaxchilán a decade later, Toniná hung on until A.D. 909, the latest Long Count calendar inscription yet to have been uncovered. With the Maya world collapsing all around them, it’s not surprising that Toniná’s leaders were obsessed with death and sacrifice, as dramatically depicted in their monuments and stelae.
Most of Toniná’s major structures date to the Late Classic period, though the area was surely populated well before that. A stone monument dated A.D. 583 is the first to have been established, and marks Toniná’s emergence as a regional power. It was also the beginning of a long rivalry between Toniná and Palenque, marked by numerous skirmishes and shifting power. (The rivalry is even depicted in Toniná’s huge ball court, where a carving shows a ruler of Palenque as a prisoner.)
Toniná was defeated by Palenque in A.D. 687, and its king captured or killed, but the defeat helped bring to power Toniná’s most accomplished leader, K’inich B’aaknal Chaak. He would later score a surprise win over Palenque in A.D. 711, a victory that is gleefully recounted in one of Toniná’s best-known relief carvings. (For Palenque, the loss marked the beginning of the end for the kingdom, one of the Maya world’s great city-states.)
© Liza Prado and Gary Chandler from Moon Chiapas, 1st Edition