Later than most Mayan cities, Toniná experienced its golden age towards the end of the classical period of the Mayan culture, although the valley of Ocosingo had already been inhabited since the late Pre-Classical period.
A local stele found in 919 AD proves the thesis that Toniná resisted the general collapse of the classical Mayan cities. In the case of Palenque, which was conquered by Toniná, it contributed to its decline. The date of this stela also represents the last recorded date of the long Mayan calendar count.
The iconography of the site stands for two ages that can be distinguished by the different deities to which it refers: The earlier period, from 300 to 700 A.D., was responsible for bird representations attributable to the underworld, while representations from the second epoch, between 700 and 900 A.D., were characterised by celestial bodies such as morning and evening stars and feline ornaments.
At the height of its power, around 900 AD, Toniná’s main pyramid complex consisted of seven platforms crowned by a total of 13 temples. The complicated and nested structure on the second platform of the Acropolis represents an artificial underworld, as it existed as a mythical landscape in the Mayan imagination and was reproduced by them. These constructed landscapes often include sacred mountains and waters, or extensive cave systems, such as the labyrinth of winding corridors and dark rooms in Toniná’s Acropolis.
The Toninás ruling families lived in the palaces in the eastern part of the Acropolis, including military leaders, architects, priests and astronomers. Unlike the western part of the Acropolis, where warriors and workers lived with their families in plain dwellings, the eastern part was lavishly decorated.
The fact that Toniná owed its political power primarily to warlike activities is particularly evident in the famous frieze of the four ages, the “Mural de las Cuatro Eras”. It consists of four panels (one of which has been lost), in which the four suns, corresponding to the four ages of Mayan cosmology, are depicted as the cut-off heads of enemies, whose blood shooting out of their necks in the form of a feather ring, as if they were the ring-shaped rays of the sun. One of the panels also shows the god of the dead, resembling a giant rodent, together with a dancing skeleton holding a severed head with a tongue hanging out.
Toniná’s society lived with the idea of being in the age of the fourth and last sun and thus at the end of mankind. This idea was supported by the real wave of destruction, which affected the Mayan world in the 9th century A.D. as a permanent war and, according to many Mayan researchers, sealed its fate.
Near the archaeological site there is also a very interesting museum with numerous original exhibits as well as a nice little café where organic highland coffee from Chiapas is offered for sale. The 12 km long access road from Ocosingo was finally asphalted a few years ago.