Piedras Negras (Maya site)

Piedras Negras (Maya site)

Piedras Negras is the modern name for a ruined city of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization located on the north bank of the Usumacinta River in the Petén department of Guatemala. The name "Piedras Negras" means "black stones" in Spanish. Its name in the language of the Classic Maya has been read in Maya inscriptions as "Yo'k'ib"', meaning "great gateway" or "entrance"cite book|title=Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens: Deciphering the Dynasties of the Ancient Maya |author=Martin, Simon and Grube, Nikolai |publisher=Thames and Hudson |date=2000 |location=London |id=ISBN 0-500-05103-8 |pages=p.139] , considered a possible reference to a large and now dry sinkhole nearby. ["Ibid." Sinkholes and caves such as this are frequently associated in Maya mythology with entrances to the Underworld or Xibalba.] Some authors think that the name is Paw Stone, but is more likely to be the name of the founder as hieroglyphs on Throne 1 and altar 4 show.

Piedras Negras seems to have been an independent city-state for most of the Classic Period, although sometimes in alliance with other states of the region and perhaps paying tribute to others at times. It had an alliance with Yaxchilan, some 40 km up river. Ceramics show the site was occupied from the mid-7th century BC to 850 AD. Its most impressive period of sculpture and architecture dated from about 608 through 810, although there is some evidence that Piedras Negras was already a city of some importance since 400 AD. The artistry of the sculpture of the late classic period of Piedras Negras is considered particularly fine. The site has two ball courts and several plazas; there are vaulted palaces and temple pyramids, including one that is connected to one of the many caves in the site. Along the banks of the river is a large boulder with the emblem glyph of Yo’ki’b carved on it, facing skyward.

A unique feature of the monuments at Piedras Negras is the frequent occurrence of the so-called "artists' signatures". Individual artists have been identified by the use of recurring glyphs on stelae and other reliefs.

Before the site was abandoned, some monuments were deliberately damaged, including images and glyphs of rulers defaced, but images and glyphs of deities left intact, suggesting a revolt or conquest by people literate in Maya writing.

See: Itsamk'anahk II.

Modern history of the site

The site was first explored, mapped, and its monuments photographed by Teoberto Maler at the end of the 19th century.

An archeological project at Piedras Negras was conducted by the University of Pennsylvania from 1931 to 1939 under the direction of J. Alden Mason and Linton Satterthwaite. Further archaeological work here was conducted from 1997 to 2000, directed by Stephen Houston of Brigham Young University and Hector Escobedo of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, with permission from the Instituto de Antropología e Historia de Guatemala (IDAEH).

Mayanist Tatiana Proskouriakoff was the first to decipher the names and dates of a Maya dynasty from her work with the monuments at this site, a breakthrough in the decipherment of the Maya Script. Prouskourikoff was buried here in Group F after her death in 1985.

In 2002 the World Monuments Fund earmarked 100,000 United States dollars for the conservation of Piedras Negras. It is today part of Guatemala's Sierra del Lacandon national park.



*cite web | url= http://www.globalheritagefund.org/where/nomination_piedras.html
title= Piedras Negras, Guatemala
work= 2003 Nominations | publisher= Global Heritage Fund
accessdate= 2008-04-05

External links

* [http://www.authenticmaya.com/piedras_negras1.htm Description and Photo Gallery]

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