Discovery of Ixil Maya Wall Paintings at Chajul

Renovation works being conducted on a Maya house at Chajul in Guatemala have revealed previously unknown wall paintings that blend indigenous and European elements and date from AD 1524-1821.

Chajul is one of the largest Ixil towns, featuring several houses that date to the Colonial period, where the Ixil community has maintained its rich Ixil Maya traditions and language.

- Advertisement -

Typically, wall art from this period is found in churches depicting Christian subjects, something encouraged by Spanish authorities to cement their religious and political control. However, this art, reported in the journal Antiquity, is in house and was likely produced by indigenous artists, depicting a blend of local and European features.

The artwork was first discovered by the owner of the house in 2003 and subsequently conserved by a Polish team. As a result, an international group of researchers have been able to fully examine the paintings, revealing it was made by Maya artists using local techniques.

Image Credit : Antiquity

Additionally, collaborating with local Ixil Maya people, the researchers have found the artwork depicts ceremonial dances that recreate important historical events. In this case, it may be the Baile de la Conquista (Dance of the Conquest), or the Baile de los Moros y Cristianos (Dance of the Moors and Christians).

The former recollects the conquest of the Maya by the Spanish, whilst the latter tells the story of the Reconquista, a key part of Spanish Medieval history. Some of these dances were created by the Spanish to insert their ideals into local traditions, helping legitimatise their conquest and promote conversion to Christianity. However, the Dance of the Conquest was eventually reinterpreted as a tale of local history and repression.

- Advertisement -

Eventually, many of these dances were banned in this region of Guatemala. This raises the possibility that some were forgotten, and this artwork might reflect one such ‘lost’ dance. Regardless of what exactly this mural depicts, it clearly represents a revival of indigenous culture in the face of the colonial authority.

As such, it may reflect the waning control of the Spanish administration, and revitalisation of Maya culture. With their fusion of European history and Maya culture, this artwork represents a unique example of Latin American artwork that provides important insight into the region’s heritage. It is hoped that further investigation of Chajul houses may yield more examples.


Header Image Credit : Antiquity

- Advertisement -
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.

Mobile Application


Related Articles

Archaeologists search crash site of WWII B-17 for lost pilot

Archaeologists from Cotswold Archaeology are excavating the crash site of a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress in an English woodland.

Roman Era tomb found guarded by carved bull heads

Archaeologists excavating at the ancient Tharsa necropolis have uncovered a Roman Era tomb guarded by two carved bull heads.

Revolutionary war barracks discovered at Colonial Williamsburg

Archaeologists excavating at Colonial Williamsburg have discovered a barracks for soldiers of the Continental Army during the American War of Independence.

Pleistocene hunter-gatherers settled in Cyprus thousands of years earlier than previously thought

Archaeologists have found that Pleistocene hunter-gatherers settled in Cyprus thousands of years earlier than previously thought.

Groundbreaking study reveals new insights into chosen locations of pyramids’ sites

A groundbreaking study, published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment, has revealed why the largest concentration of pyramids in Egypt were built along a narrow desert strip.

Soldiers’ graffiti depicting hangings found on door at Dover Castle

Conservation of a Georgian door at Dover Castle has revealed etchings depicting hangings and graffiti from time of French Revolution.

Archaeologists find Roman villa with ornate indoor plunge pool

Archaeologists from the National Institute of Cultural Heritage have uncovered a Roman villa with an indoor plunge pool during excavations at the port city of Durrës, Albania.

Archaeologists excavate medieval timber hall

Archaeologists from the University of York have returned to Skipsea in East Yorkshire, England, to excavate the remains of a medieval timber hall.