Visual Archaeology Interpretation



Piedras Negras

The majestic Maya city of Piedras Negras rose to preeminence in the Late Classic period (AD 600-900), at which time it vied for control of the upper reaches of the river with its longtime rival Yaxchilan, 40 kilometers to the south. In antiquity, the city was known as Yokib' ("the entrance"), possibly because of a 100-meter-wide sinkhole at the site. "Entrances" such as caves and sinkholes were revered by the Maya as portals to the spirit world. Seen as a reconstructed watercolor of Tatiana Proskouriakoff, K-5 was built or greatly expanded by Ruler 2 around 677.

Piedras Negras has two principal architectural groups, which include temple pyramids, ballcourts, and numerous carved reliefs and stelae that have been regarded as some of the finest works of art in the New World. The site is of special importance to Maya epigraphers. It was here that in 1960, the great Russian architect and linguist Tatiana Proskouriakoff succeeded in determining the historical content of the inscriptions, long thought to be solely astronomical or mythological in nature.

The site is threatened by looting, erosion, exposure to the elements, and exuberant vegetation, which have wrought havoc on the site, causing a dramatic loss of detail in carved inscriptions and iconographic scenes and buildings and walls to collapse. The site will be at risk for flooding if the Mexican government proceeds with plans to build a series of hydroelectric dams on the Usumacinta.

Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens: Deciphering the Dynasties of the Ancient Maya. Simon Martin and Nikolai Grube. Thames and Hudson. 2000. Page 145.

Internet Links


The Piedras Negras: Lesson Plan (PDF File)

Courtly Arts of the Maya: Exhibition Family Guide National Gallery of Art



The Lowland Maya Civilization: Scribes, Priests and Kings in the Tropical Rainforest



















Copyright ©2004 Linda Kreft