Beyond ''Apocalypto'': What Maya Empire Looked Like

Beyond Apocalypto -- What Maya Empire Looked Like
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Limbs flail and spears snap as Chaan Muan, eighth-century ruler of the Maya city of Bonampak, captures a victim for sacrifice in a jungle raid.

Gripping a spear in one hand and his victim's hair in the other, Chaan Muan dominates the scene with a menacing headdress, trophy head, and supposedly power-imbuing jaguar-pelt tunic.

His victim likely faces slavery or one of several varieties of ritual sacrifice—decapitation, drowning, repeated bloodletting, or the removal of his still-beating heart.

This computer-aided reconstruction shows a painting from one of the three mural-wrapped rooms in a small temple in Bonampak, located in present-day Chiapas state, Mexico.

The murals, detailed depictions of life in the Maya Empire, are prized by archaeologists as the finest examples of Maya painting.

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Computer Reconstruction by Doug Stern
 
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