Izapa sits near the base of the Tacana volcano, the fourth largest mountain in Mexico, and near the Izapa River. It is the largest archeological site in Chiapas, covering nearly a mile and a half of land. It is believed that this site was settles as far back as 1500 BC and at its peak was home to as many as 10,000 people! Archeologists think that the population began to diminish around 250 AD and by 1200 AD the site was abandoned altogether.
Izapa has thirteen large plazas and a wealth of fabulous artwork that shows the influence of the Olmec people, with whom the Mayans traded. Both cultures made liberal use of jaguar motifs, mouths that were down turned, clouds and scrolling skies, flaming eyebrows and faces that resembled that of an infant. The two cultures undoubtedly traded cacao and other goods, using cacao seeds as money. You’ll see the Olmec influence in many of the carvings at this site.
There are no hieroglyphics at Izapa, a sign that perhaps there was no written language. You will, however, find altars in the shape of frogs as well as carvings of groups of people and gods. Strangely enough, the Izapa people did not depict individuals in their carvings. The site has thus far yielded 89 stelae, 61 altars, 3 thrones and 68 general monuments. Crocodiles, birds, fish and other animals are included in the carvings. There are over a hundred mounds awaiting excavation!
The 260-day Mayan calendar is thought to have originated in Izapa because it fits historical and geographical conditions needed to keep time with the calendar. The prophecy that predicts the end of the world on December 21, 2012 states that the monuments at the east and west ends of the Great Ballcourt must align with the Rising Sun and the Dark Area or Bow of the Milky Way at winter solstice. Izapa is the only location where that is possible on that date and it will take place at 6:20 on that morning.
You’ll find replicas of the treasures found at this site in Metro Bellas Artes and some very fine stelae from Izapa at the National Museum of Anthropology, both in Mexico City.
The closest town is ¾ mile away, a tiny settlement called Tuxtla Chico. It is just over 6 miles to Tapachula, a large center of commerce whose name means “flooded house”. Tapachula is where you will find cars to rent, nice hotels and a great selection of very good restaurants. It also has a museum, Museo Arqueologico del Soconusco, with local artifacts on display as well as some from Izapa.
Izapa is surrounded by farm houses and you’ll be parking on someone’s property when you visit the site. It’s considered polite to pay a couple of dollars for the privilege of using the farmer’s land as a parking lot. Most of them are quite poor so they will be grateful for your donation.
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