The history of this region is fascinating, as it portrays violent struggles between neighboring states concurrent with the widespread abandonment of Petén’s Classic Mayan sites, giving us a glimpse into the local state of affairs in various Mayan city-states before the Classic Mayan collapse.
The area’s largest site, Dos Pilas, was founded sometime around A.D. 640 by a renegade prince from Tikal who fled after Tikal’s defeat by Calakmul. Later Dos Pilas defeated Tikal in two wars culminating in the capture of Tikal’s ruler Shield Skull in A.D. 679. The event was duly recorded in the stelae at Dos Pilas and launched a reconstruction of the site’s plaza.
Subsequent rulers would carry out building programs, including the construction of three hieroglyphic staircases, and wage wars of conquest. Ceibal was defeated in A.D. 735 and several lords from other Mayan cities were captured. Dos Pilas eventually came to dominate most of the lands between the Chixoy and Pasión Rivers.
The same Putún Mayans who came to dominate Ceibal eventually made their way over to Dos Pilas, and in A.D. 761, allied with the vassal state of Tamarindito, they captured and killed the site’s fourth ruler. The remaining nobility fled to Aguateca, naturally fortified on a bluff, which had already begun functioning as a second capital.Some of the peasantry stayed behind and continued to farm the area around Dos Pilas, attempting to fortify it against their enemies, but it succumbed to the continuing onslaught of these invaders from the north and was completely abandoned by the 9th century.
Aguateca would suffer a similar fate and was abandoned sometime around A.D. 790, after three defensive moats were built along Petexbatún Lagoon across Punta de Chimino in a vain attempt to keep the invaders at bay.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com