Mayas Fought Huge Civil War, Evidence Suggests

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New evidence suggests that the Mayas fought the equivalent of a massive civil war, not just a series of regional battles, as has been previously thought.

The evidence is in the form of newly discovered hieroglyphs, unearthed courtesy of Mother Nature, whose hurricane last summer blew away part of the dense rain forest covering a Mayan pyramid at a site known as Dos Pilas, in what is now Guatemala.

Archaeologists who have read the hieroglyphs say that Dos Pilas was then an outpost of a large city known as Tikal, which was 75 miles away, and that the ruler of Dos Pilas was the brother of the ruler of Tikal. Then, people from the city-state Calakmul, which was 60 miles away, in what is now Mexico, invaded Dos Pilas and took the king prisoner, eventually restoring him to the throne but making him a pawn of Calakmul. The Dos Pilas puppet-king eventually turned on his own brother and invaded Tikal itself, killing his brother in the process. (Oddly enough, Tikal came right back a few years later and overthew Calakmul.)

The hieroglyphs, which numbered in the hundreds and were found on 10 steps leading to the top of the pyramid, describe in great detail what happened and when, filling in a gap that historians had long wondered about in the history of the Maya. Most historians have thought that the Maya wars were just regional wars, between neighboring states. But this evidence proves that the war was much wider in scope than previously thought. Tikal and Calakmul were the superpowers that struggled for control of the area, and other smaller city-states chose one side or the other (or sometimes both, one at different times, as was the case with Dos Pilas).

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