As mentioned in an earlier post, the origin and development of the Kaan kingdom is of major interest in Mayanist studies. Excavations at Ichkabal attempts to prove that the original capital of the kingdom lay in the east, and not at Calakmul in the west where the capital lay during the Late Classic period. A rivaling hypothesis is that the enormous site of El Mirador in northern Guatemala once was the capital of the Kaan kingdom. One important piece of evidence is that El Mirador and Calakmul appears to have been connected by a causeway. The causeway would then have been constructed during the Late Formative. After the Late Formative “collapse” of El Mirador and other major sites in its vicinity, around AD 150, Tikal to the south rose to prominence. We know from later history that Tikal and Calakmul (or more precisely the Kaan kingdom) were enemies and it is likely that the hostility began earlier.
Exactly what happened around AD 150 is not known. There may have been a drought according to Dahlin, Gill and other proponents for climate causes. Other environmental problem caused by anthropogenic processes like deforestation for the production of lavish stucco decoration is another hypothesis. Political causes are also possible. Tikal is well known for its Early Classic connections to the Central Mexican metropolis Teotihuacán. In AD 378, it is believed that Teotihuacán intervened in Tikal’s political affairs and installed a new ruler in the following year. However, the Teotihuacán involvement in the lowland affairs existed earlier than this.
A few years ago Stanley Guenter told me about the existence of obsidian and chert spear tips and arrow heads on the summit of the 50 m high El Tigre pyramid at El Mirador. Richard Hansen has recently excavated this area and found obsidian and chert spear tips along with bones and smashed ceramics. There are over 200 obsidian tips and these come from the Central Mexican highlands. These are believed to have been brought there by warriors from Teotihuacán. The chert points are local or at least from the Maya area and believed to have been used by warriors from El Mirador. DNA tests on blood samples from the spear tips and arrow heads are to be carried out. The hope is to find DNA from different ethnic groups on the obsidian and chert objects.
However, the article says nothing about the date of this battle. It appears not to have occurred in AD 150, but quite some time after this. Hansen believes that maybe roughly 200 people continued to live among the ruins of the site that once held 100,000 or more people. The hypothesis seems to be that people from Teotihuacán/Tikal, after the entrada in 378, decided to finish off El Mirador once and for all. Perhaps El Mirador, as a possible ancestral site for the Kaan kingdom, had become more of a symbol that needed to be demolished in the struggle for control of the central lowlands? Its real economic importance must surely have disappeared by then (unless the battle occurred in AD 150).
There is graffiti on the stelae at El Mirador that Hansen believes were left by the warriors from Teotihuacán since the graffiti appears to depict crude versions of Tlaloc, the Central Mexican warrior and rain god.
In any case, whether or not the battle took place around AD 150 or around AD 378, is perhaps not the major issue here. It is the fact that Teotihuacanos found it important to take over or finish off this site. It has been a long standing issue of the nature of the influence that Teotihuacán exerted on the Maya lowlands during the Classic period. However, it appears that the major expansion of the Teotihuacán Empire occurred around AD 150, that is, after the demise of the Mirador basin sites. More research is definitely needed in order to sort out the role of El Mirador in the wider Mesoamerican area. Too little is known of this area and time.