Bonampak Ruins

The next stop on the Superior Sauna expedition landed the crew at the ancient Mayan city of Bonampak, located near the Usumacinta River. Upon arrival, the team was greeted by security guards who refused to allow them to bring in their camera equipment. They took a quick tour through the site and captured some photos and video clips on their cell phones instead before heading back to their van.


They learned that Bonampak’s Great Plaza is one of the most spacious in the region, measuring 90 by 110 yards. As you walk across the plaza and approach the acropolis, you're struck by how monumental the City is. The purpose of their trip to Bonampak was not to see the steam rooms (there actually aren’t any at this location); rather, they were seeking the famous murals that were found inside these small chambers near the acropolis. Superior Saunas will begin replicating the artwork from the chamber into their new product line.


Bonampak Ruins 2
Bonampak Ruins 3



According to a number of researchers, the three small rooms are made up of four individual storylines.


  • Presentation of Chan Muhan II’s Heir (Room 1)
  • The War and Taking of Prisoners (Room 2)
  • Presentations and Sacrifices of Prisoners (Room 2)
  • Sacrificial Ceremony and Dance on the Great Basement (Room 3)


The rooms were filled with beautiful red and orange murals painted over a thick coat of limestone and powdered stone plaster. Various mineral and vegetable pigments were used to achieve such vibrant colors. The rooms contain a total of 108 hieroglyphic texts, 270 human figures and 30 godlike figures – all telling the story of peace, war, and sacrifice during the times of King Chan Muhan II’s life.  


Alfonso came to the rescue, providing the team with an in-depth interview outside the site where we had photos of the murals that he used to tell the story.


“The action shots you see in the rooms tell many different stories. One of which depicted the story of captives being brought in to be sacrificed. After they were restrained, a slow death came upon them. The paintings showed the people begging the king not to kill them, but the captives clearly had no power,” said Alfonso.


The murals showed the different stages of death, spectated by a large crowd of onlookers that was made up of warriors and other noble figures. The blood from the captives was used to bless the temple.

Bonampak Ruins 4


Amid the morbidity, one fun fact they learned was that the artist who painted the murals was named Och, which translates to opossum in English. He was from Yaxchilan and was sometimes referred to as the “Michelangelo of the Mayans”. In one of the murals, you’ll find that Och had painted himself into the mural!



The crew ended the day with a phenomenal dinner at Cabanas el “Buho” where they sat next to a babbling creek. They stayed overnight near Bonampak in a small hostel so they could have a jumpstart on their drive to Pedras Negras the next morning.

Bonampak Hostel


At the hostel, they partook in their first temazcal ceremony which was performed by a local shaman. The temazcal ritual was known for its incredible healing and therapeutic properties. The cleansing ritual was used to purify one’s body and soul - spiritually and physically. Each temazcal ceremony is unique and personal. This one consisted of guided prayers of protection, rebuking bad energy and shouting their praises to the gods.


Prayers of protection from the underworld and cleansing of one’s soul were mentioned before the participants stepped foot into the steam room where they went to sweat out negative energy and harmful toxins. Various plants and herbs were used during the ceremony, filling the room with soothing aromas.


After the ceremony, the crew retired to bed so they could get a good night’s sleep before departing for Pedras Negras at 3am.

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  • Elliot Wood