Exciting New Research on Teotihuacan/Maya Events at Tikal

March 31, 2020

On January 16, 378 CE, Sihyaj K’ahk’ (SEE-yah Kak), or Fire is Born entered Tikal in Guatemala. He may have been from Teotihuacan and may have entered with an army. Maya monuments at the site record the event. Chak Tok Ich’aak, or Jaguar Paw, the long-reigning king of Tikal, died on the day he arrived. He may have been sent by Spearthrower Owl whose son became king of Tikal within 2 years. His name was Yax Nuun Ayiin, He has a Teotihuacan style atlatl and headdress, and the images of him and his father at Tikal are drawn in a Teo style. Tikal became very powerful thereafter.
There is controversy about these interpretations. The new rulers may have been Maya royalty who adopted Teo symbolism.

A team of archaeologists have uncovered the evidence of a giant feast dated at 300-350 CE, They have excavated so far 10,000 ceramic pieces and an additional 250 pieces are excavated each day. They believe Maya and Teotihuacano guests were at the feast together, The team has excavated a compound of buildings with vivid murals. Perhaps the Teotihuacano guests were diplomats and nobles sent to cement royal marriages and alliances. Decades after the feast, the murals were smashed and buried. Faces were obliterated. This destruction took place at 350-400 CE.

Nearby, a mass burial has been found, the bodies in pieces. Some skulls have flat backs and dental jewelry that are Maya in style. DNA and dietary isotopes will be taken to see if these are Maya people. The bones were dumped in the burial pit at the time of the feast. 

There is evidence that the new ruler at Tikal expanded his influence over a wide area.  Teo style murals show up at Holmul 25 miles away. Friendly kings were established at many Maya cities. But there is little evidence of Teo people living at Tikal. Sihyaj K’ahk may have been a Maya usurper using the Teotihuacan attire and symbolism to enhance his power. Isotopic analysis shows he grew up near Tikal. Other archaeologists are looking for real evidence of a Teotihuacan conquest. LIDAR has found possible fortifications with watch towers nearby Tikal. Excavations of these sites will begin in May. They may find whether these places were built by the Teotihuacanos or the Maya.

The detailed report on this new and exciting research is published in Science magazine with photos;

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