Image - Cacao Pod Vessel - K6706 © Justin Kerr FAMSI © 2002:
Federico Fahsen

Rescuing the Origins of Dos Pilas Dynasty:
A Salvage of Hieroglyphic Stairway #2, Structure L5-49
Final Report
Vea este informe en Español.

Photo 6. Central Stairway. Step 6 (bottom), 5, 4, 3, 2. Step 1 not excavated yet.

Research Year:  2002
Culture:  Maya
Chronology:  Terminal Classic
Location:  Petén, Guatemala
Site:  Dos Pilas

Table of Contents

Interim Report (PDF format 826 KB)
Recent Evidence from the Pasión, Petexbatún, and Cancuén
The History of the Pasión/Usumacinta River System
The Classic Beginnings: The Tikal Intrusion
Annex 1. Dates: Dos Pilas Hieroglyphic Stairway 2
List of Figures
Sources Cited


The discovery of the new steps in Dos Pilas, capital of the Petexbatún kingdom, in August of 2001 and the subsequent excavations during the latter part of that year and the early months of 2002 opened a wide debate among epigraphers, archaeologists and other mayanists as well as among interested lay persons on the nature of the Terminal Classic Maya history and the initial causes of the decline of this great culture.

Previous to this discovery, the conventional thought involved a "civil war" between two factions of the Tikal royal family and the exile or flight of some of its members to a site known as Dos Pilas.

The new stairway steps tell a somewhat different story that involves first family bonding, followed by the invasion of Dos Pilas by Calakmul and then a fatal family feud and death, all leading to the western Petén wars.

In the month of September, 2001 and subsequent months of 2002, an extraordinary discovery was made in the archaeological site of Dos Pilas, Petén, Guatemala. This discovery of ten hieroglyphic steps, which added to the already known eight of Stairway 2 of Structure L5-49, describes the initial history of the site including the arrival of the founding ruler and sixty years of his life.

The steps were excavated with a donation by the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc., (FAMSI) and reported in several forms during 2002 and 2003, including an interim report posted by FAMSI on its website.

Negotiations with the Instituto de Antropología e Historia (IDAEH) for the protection of the monument encountered the opposition of the community of nearby Nacimiento. As the negotiations dragged on, several proposals were submitted by the author of this report trying to accommodate the different views and ideas. However, because of the delay, in January of 2003, looters removed a block of Step 6, East Section containing four glyphs. These were the last glyphs of the text. Fortunately the whole set of steps had duly been photographed and drawn previously.

This event resulted in the acceptance by all parties concerned, of the proposal to remove the steps to a secure warehouse and to replace them by the copies that had been made in 2002. This will take place during the next two months. With this effort, the salvage operation financed by FAMSI will be complete.

Click to download the report in PDF format:

Rescuing the Origins of Dos Pilas Dynasty:
A Salvage of Hieroglyphic Stairway #2, Structure L5-49
  (1.43 MB)

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Submitted 07/30/2002 by:

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