The wonderful community museum in Frontera Corozal is only two minutes from the landing where you take the boat up the river to Yaxchilan. With two magnificent monuments carved by the Yaxchilan school and depicting famous rulers of that ancient kingdom, it provides an invaluable opportunity to enhance your appreciation of what you will see when you visit Yaxchilan itself (or what you just saw, if you stop at the museum afterwards).

The town of Frontera Corozal was founded in 1976 when Ch'ol-speaking Maya from the north merged with the Lacandon community of Lacanjá Chansayab and Tzeltal speakers of Nueva Palestina. Traditions were merged in a spirit of solidarity, as expressed in the concept of the community museum.

The idea of the museum came about in the Ch'ol subcommunity when the two stelae were discovered at the nearby site of Dos Caobas. Measuring up to three meters in height and weighing up to three tons, the two monuments were brought to Frontera Corozal and, after several years of deliberations, erected in the main room of the newly built museum.

The Yaxchilan rulers depicted on the museum's two stelae built most of the structures that you will see when you visit Yaxchilan itself. That they are portrayed on monuments from Dos Caobas, a lesser site upriver on the Usumacinta, shows the power that Yaxchilan wielded in the region.

The front side of Stela 1 shows Yaxchilan ruler Shield Jaguar II bearing a shield and spear and towering over a captive. This king is called "Shield Jaguar the Great" because he reigned for over sixty years and reasserted Yaxchilan's power along the upper Usumacinta by means of an impressive series of military triumphs. The unfortunate prisoner whose hair is being grasped by the other lord on the stela was presumably captured in one of these warfare events. The lord in question could well have come from Dos Caobas and would have served his overlord, Shield Jaguar, in the military campaign.

The back side also depicts a prisoner at the feet of Shield Jaguar (or Itzamnaaj B'ahlam as he was known in Mayan). Here the Yaxchilan ruler impersonates a war god.

Carved into the stone above the prisoner is the name of the sculptor who carved this impressive monument. (Maya sculptors often got to sign their works.) As pointed out by the glyph expert David Stuart, this same name appears on a lintel at Yaxchilan. Thus there is good reason for believing that the Dos Caobas monuments were created by an artist or artists from Yaxchilan loaned out for the purpose.

Dos Caobas Stela 2 shows a court scene of just the sort that would have been common at subordinate sites like Dos Caobas. Sitting in state on a dais is the visiting king of Yaxchilan, Bird Jaguar IV. A son of Shield Jaguar by a lesser wife, Bird Jaguar created a prodigious architectural and monumental program at Yaxchilan, largely out of a desire to promote his own royal legitimacy. Although the glyphs are too eroded to know for sure, one of the two other figures in the scene may have been one of his queens.

Photographs (#1, #2) of the Dos Caobas stelae don't do them justice. You really do need to see them for yourself.

Read more about these must-see prizes in the Frontera Corozal museum.

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