Yaxchilán Archaeological Site
Yaxchilán is located on the border between Guatemala and Mexico, sandwiched between the Usumacinta River and the Lacandon Forest, and across the river from another ancient Maya city, Piedras Negras, in Guatemala. Yaxchilán is a classic Maya urban complex and is considered a perfect expression of the Usumacinta style, for the architecture is adorned with epigraphic inscriptions and extensive relief sculpture. Yaxchilan and Piedras Negras were of regional importance between 500 and 700 A.D.Since 1882 important epigraphic discoveries have been made from surviving stelae, lintels, and altars, which have provided insights into the extent and complexity of the Maya urban society, their regional networks, and their involvement in trade. While some of the buildings and monuments that are accessible to the public have been maintained at the site, many areas inaccessible to the public had long been undocumented and unprotected. Many structures were in danger of collapsing and the entire site needed improved tourist planning and management. Political unrest in the Chiapas area, looting, and animal infestation contributed to the poor condition of many structures at the site.
How We Helped
WMF, in collaboration with the Instituto Nacional de Antropología y Historia INAH and the Commission for Protected Areas CONAMP, collaborated on the development a site redevelopment plan within a comprehensive management plan for Yaxchilán. The project began in 2001 and the nature conservation portion of the plan was completed and turned into law in 2011. Phase I consisted of identifying the problems at the site, which were pressures of development, tourism, and the environment. Phase II began in 2003 and entailed cleaning the complex, structural stabilization and consolidation, removal of vegetation, replacement of wall capping, and re-design and replacement of the protective covers. Over the course of the next two years several evaluations were performed on the condition of the site, and it was determined that the nearby city of Frontera Corozal should be developed as a staging area for tourism in the area. Guatemala’s Institute of Anthropology and History joined the project team to help promote cultural and eco-tourism in the Usumacinta basin. In 2011 WMF and INAH collaborated on the development of design prototypes for protective covers for the artistic elements of Yaxchilan.
Why It Matters
The excavation and evaluation of Yaxchilán has led to a greater understanding of Maya civilization and the comprehensive management plan for the site is a good example for developing and promoting eco-tourism. Community involvement and representation is integral to the security and maintenance of the site, so the project includes training for local authorities to ensure proper management. Representatives from the communal government and other local people participated in a workshop on site management. This regional cooperation greatly increases the site’s potential for survival and protection.