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Dos Pilas

Stairway 2) contains at least eighteen hieroglyphic steps, describing the arrival and life of B'alaj Chan K'awiil. The discovery of eight new hieroglyphic steps in 2001–2002 and their interpretation lead to a complete reevaluation of the early history of the site, throwing light upon the wider Maya politics involved with the break from Tikal, formerly seen as an internal affair. The steps currently ''in situ'' are replicas put in place after looters stole a section of Step 6 containing four glyphs in January 2003. The original steps were removed to a secure location. Flanking the stairway at the east and west ends are Panel 6 and Panel 7, both bearing hieroglyphic inscriptions. Kelly 1996, p. 163. The well-preserved Panel 10 is located part of the way up the east side of the pyramid. Panel 10 was originally a stela at Arroyo de Piedra, it was moved and re-erected here after Dos Pilas conquered its neighbour. *'''LD-25''' is a temple pyramid built by K'awiil Chan K'inich. Hieroglyphic Stairway 3 is located 120 meters south of the southeast corner of the plaza, it is a part of this structure and describes some of this king's victories in AD 743 and 745. *Structure '''L5-1''' is a ruined building on the east side of the plaza containing a vaulted crypt 9 meters beneath its summit. Inside were found the remains of an individual wearing a heavy jade collar and wristlets accompanied by offerings of fine painted ceramics and almost 400 pieces of shell mosaic that once formed a headdress. Due to the nearby Stela 8, positioned in front of this structure and containing a text relating the life, death and burial of king Itzamnaaj K'awiil, the tomb is presumed to be that of this king. Martin & Grube 2000, p. 59. *The '''palace''' of B'alaj Chan K’awiil was torn down by the last inhabitants of Dos Pilas in order to build defensive walls immediately prior to the abandonment of the city. It lies about 100 meters south of the plaza, behind Structure LD-49. Martin & Grube 2000, p. 54. Hieroglyphic Stairway 4 is located on the east side of the destroyed palace and was discovered when the defensive wall that crosses it was being excavated. Hieroglyphic Stairway 4 details the history of B'alaj Chan K’awiil and the founding of the Dos Pilas dynasty. Kelly 1996, p. 164. *A '''ball court (Mesoamerican ballcourt)''' lies at the northeast corner of the plaza. The structures forming its sides are designated as L4-16 and L4-17. These structures bear the heavily eroded Panel 11 and Panel 12, both of which show a standing lord wielding a spear. El Duende group The El Duende group lies about 1 km to the east of the site core. Kelly 1996, p. 162. This group was built by Itzamnaaj K'awiil after his victory over Tikal in 705. Sharer & Traxler 2006, pp. 405-406. El Duende is the largest pyramid in the city, built by enlarging and terracing a natural hill some way from the site core, giving the impression of a single massive structure. The terraces supported five stelae and altar pairs, Coe 1999, p. 209. commissioned by Itzamnaaj K'awiil in the early 8th century AD. During excavations in 1991, a sinkhole near the western limit of the El Duende complex discovered a 1.5 km long cave that passes directly under the temple, which was named ''Cueva de Río El Duende'' (River Cave of El Duende) by archaeologists. Within the cave were found abundant artifacts and human bones. Brady 1997, p. 605. Smaller buildings flank the main platform. The Bat Palace The Bat Palace (also known as the Murciélagos Group, from ''murciélago'', Spanish for "bat") lies half way between the site core and the El Duende group, being 0.5 km to the east of the main plaza and 0.5 km to the west of the El Duende pyramid. The Bat Palace was the political centre of Dos Pilas from AD 725 until the city was abandoned in AD 761. Excavations of the Bat Palace revealed that it was an exclusive, closed elite compound with ritual significance, with a cave entrance emerging within the palace and being marked by a shrine with offerings over the buried entrance. The Bat Palace is believed to have been the most important elite area of Dos Pilas during the reigns of the last two rulers of the city. The entrance to the palace complex was flanked by two small temples built of masonry, leading to two courtyards. The courtyards were enclosed by masonry buildings with perishable roofs. A smashed royal throne was found in the Bat Palace, evidence of the violent conquest of the city in the Late Classic. Monuments '''Stela 8''' was raised in front of Structure L5-1. Its text describes the principal events of king Itzamnaaj K'awiil's life, and mentions his death and burial in AD 726. Caves thumb right Cave entrance near El Duende (File:Dos Pilas 1006.JPG) During excavations, a total of 22 caves were located in the immediate vicinity of the Dos Pilas, totaling over 11 km in length. There are five major caves; Cueva de El Duende, Cueva de Río El Duende, Cueva de Río Murciélagos, Cueva de Sangre and Cueva de Kaxon Pec. Brady 1997, p. 610. Only these major caves were excavated and the offerings recovered from these caves included a sizeable amount of Preclassic (Mesoamerican chronology) pottery. Brady 1997, pp. 604–605. The strong Preclassic traces found in the caves would imply that the caves were important long before the warlike Dos Pilas state was founded in the Late Classic. All the major architecture at Dos Pilas dates from the Late Classic and is aligned with important cave systems, showing that the builders of the city incorporated a thousand-year old sacred landscape into the design of their city. On the hill forming the base of the El Duende group were erected several stelae containing toponym glyphs. One of these glyphs refers to water and the cave contains an underground lake directly underneath the hill, making it likely that the toponym is referring to this particular body of water. The fact that the El Duende group were originally named after this subterranean water source demonstrates how important this cave was to the ancient inhabitants of Dos Pilas. The entrance to the '''Cave of Bats''' (Cueva de Río Murciélagos) lies 75 meters to the northwest of the Bat Palace. Although relatively dry in the dry season, after rainfall water can pour out through the cave mouth at a rate of 8m³ second, creating enough noise to be heard in the main plaza 500 meters away. Brady 1997, p. 606. Although the seasonal flow of water has washed away almost all archaeological remains from the cave, archaeologists consider that the Cave of Bats was of ceremonial importance to the inhabitants of Dos Pilas due to the dramatic torrent that flows through it in the wet season. Investigation of the various caves at Dos Pilas revealed that all of the larger caves were part of a single drainage system and that the Cave of Bats is the drainage outlet for the system, this cave therefore being connected to the Cueva de Río El Duende. A continuation of the Cave of Bats was found to emerge inside the Bat Palace, where it was marked by a shrine. A plaza group directly overlies the principal chamber of the '''Cueva de El Duende''' (not to be confused with the similarly named Cueva de Río El Duende), which lies just southwest of the El Duende pyramid. A 2 meter deep midden was discovered in this cave showing heavy use during the Preclassic and Classic periods. A ceramic vessel bearing the earliest dynastic text yet recovered from Dos Pilas was found in this midden. Brady 1997, p. 608. A thick cap of sterile yellow clay covers much of the floor of the main chamber, it appears to have been deliberately deposited in order to cover the entrance to the cave's longest tunnel, which passes underneath the El Duende pyramid and connects with the Cueva de Río El Duende. In the entrance of the cave were found large quantities of rubble, much of it consisting of finely dressed stone that had been stripped from nearby buildings and used to block the cave entrance. Brady 1997, pp. 608–9. James E. Brady believes that the blocking of this sacred cave was a part of a termination ritual carried out by the conquerors of Dos Pilas, who also blocked the entrances of the Cueva de Sangre (Cave of Blood) and possibly the western entrance of the Cueva de Río El Duende, suggesting that the caves were enormously important. Brady 1997, p. 609. The '''Cueva de Sangre''' (Cave of Blood) is located about 2 km east of the El Duende group, it has more than 3 km of tunnel running underneath a small hill. The cave has four entrances, two of which had been blocked with rubble as at Cueva de El Duende. The west entrance appears to have been the principal entrance used by the ancient inhabitants of Dos Pilas. A small building was built above this entrance, the function of this building must have been linked to the use of the cave itself. A stone wall enclosed both the cave entrance and the building itself. Preclassic ceramic fragments were found inside the Cueva de Sangre. See also *List of Mesoamerican pyramids Notes


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