Comparative Guts

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Battle scene and their aftermath, in the murals of Bonampak illustrating the mutilation of defeated warriors

Site: Bonampak
Culture: Maya
Date: Late Classic (c. AD 800)
Context: Structure 1, Room 2
Medium: Mural
Figure credit: Watercolour by Heather Hurst and Leonard Ashby

In this amazingly detailed and colourful mural, we get a spectacular look into the warfare for the ancient Maya. The scene is part of a series of detailed murals covering the walls of three whole rooms within a palatial structure at the site of Bonampak. This war scene depicts warriors dressed in elaborate battle garments equipped with weapons such as long spears often seen perforating the bodies of their enemies. The bloodshed is blatant and permeates the whole scene. The figures defeated in battle were stripped of their garments. Blood is seen dripping from their bodies as spears enter their necks, chests, and backs. In the accompanying mural, also in Room 2, we see the defeated warriors taken as captives, and presented before the ruler Yajaw Chan Muwaan. One of the captives has already been sacrificed and the rest await their fate as blood drips from their hands. (LB)