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frieze detail                                 simon burchell

acropolis temple 5th terrace              simon burchell

TONINA-Chiapas, Mexico

DESCRIPTION
Tonina, House of Stone, is a site small in area, yet containing a massive complex.  Its original name may have been Po or Popo. Its acropolis is among the tallest structures in the Maya world reaching a height of 233 feet/71meters. The site is oriented along a northeast-southwest axis. Strategically located at the western fringe of the Maya area, it overlooks one end of the Ocosingo Valley just outside the town of the same name. It was a major Maya capital during the Classic Period (400-900 A.D.), and a fierce rival of Palenque. There is a fine museum located here that contains a very rich assortment of Maya artifacts, and sculpture from the site.

There are a number of exquisite sculptures in the round that have been discovered here, reminiscent of those found at Copan in Honduras. There are also beautiful bas reliefs and stucco decoration that evoke the grandeur of Palenque. Tonina has the distinction of having the last recorded glyphic text in the Maya World on Monument 101 with a Long Count date inscribed in 909 A.D.

Tonina is about 40 miles/64k southwest of Palenque on the main road to San Cristobal de las Casas. The site is little visited, which makes for a very pleasant day trip.

HOURS: 8:00 A.M-5:00 PM year round
ENTRANCE FEE: U.S $4.50/52 Pesos
GUIDES: Guides can be obtained in Ocosingo
SERVICES: Bathrooms
ON-SITE MUSEUM: Yes
ACCOMMODATIONS:  Lodging and transportation can be arranged in Ocosingo
GPS: 16d 55' 34" N, 92d 03' 53" W
MISC:

HISTORY AND EXPLORATION
Tonina was settled during the Middle Pre-Classic (800-600 B.C.), and reached its greatest prominence during the Late Classic (600-900 A.D.) as a regional powerhouse. A dynastic lineage has been deciphered from the 6th century onwards through the well preserved stelae and other hieroglyphic renderings found throughout the site. There was a particular interest in recording warfare and prisoner taking at Tonina. Most of the structures were built and modified over the course of a number of centuries, primarily during the Classic Period.

An early account of the site was made by Fray Jacinto Garrido towards the end of the 17th century. An expedition to the site was made by Guillaume Dupaix in 1808. Those intrepid adventurer/explorers John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood arrived in 1840, and described the site in detail. There followed other explorers at the end of the 19th century, most notably Eduard Seler and Karl Sapper. Further explorations, excavations and consolidations have been carried out ever since.

The current work at the site has revealed that what was once considered a natural hill that backed up on the Acropolis is actually an enormous pyramid. Excavation is ongoing, and the information will be added to the description of the structures in the near future

STRUCTURES
The site is entered through the ball court situated on the south-east end of the complex. There are some unexcavated platforms across the Great Plaza from the ball court, and a structure named the South temple on the south end of the plaza. According to deciphered glyphic information the ball court was dedicated in 699 A.D. A later event was recorded in 776 A.D. to commemorate a military victory over a lord of Palenque.

At the north end of the Great Plaza is the Great Acropolis. This is a mammoth structure built into what was once thought a hillside. It comprises structures built on seven levels. There are 260 steps to the top of the acropolis. It is among the highest Maya structures ever constructed. At the foot of the Acropolis is a small ball court.

The workmanship that survives is highly refined. The murals, stuccoed walls, and bas-reliefs are inspirational. Of particular interest is The Mural of the Four Eras/Four Suns, a beautiful stuccoed mural located on the fifth terrace. On this level was also found wonderful sculptures in the round that depict some of the rulers of the site. Also impressive is The Temple of the Monster of the Underworld, and The Temple of the Paintings.

The complex housed administrative, civil, ceremonial, and residential sectors. On the second terrace is The Palace of the Underworld, which contains a rare labyrinth used for ritual purposes.  Also, a number of tombs were discovered within the complex as well. The uppermost level has a small four tiered pyramid which offers a spectacular view of the Ocosingo Valley.

TONINA

south temple                                            poppy.

sculpture in the round simon burchell

temple of the earth monster                           dan himes

overview                                               google earth

acropolis                                                    poppy

palace of the underworld                                  simon burchell

great plaza                                              poppy

acropolis                                               dan himes.

acropolis                                                 dan himes