Bonampak is an ancient Maya archaeological site in the Mexican state of Chiapas. The site is approximately 30 km (19 mi) south of the larger site of Yaxchilan, under which Bonampak was a dependency, and the border with Guatemala. While the site is not overly impressive in terms of spatial or architectural size, it is well known for a number of murals, most especially those located within Structure 1 (The Temple of the Murals). The construction of the site’s structures dates to the Early Classic period (c. AD 580 to 800).
The site, lying close to a tributary of the Usumacinta River, was first seen by non-Mayans in 1946 by two American travelers, Herman Charles (Carlos) Frey and John Bourne. The Americans were led to the ruins by the local Lacandon Maya who still visited the site to pray in the ancient temples. Shortly thereafter a photographer, Giles Healey, was shown the huge painting covering the walls of one of the structure's three rooms. The paintings show the story of a single battle and its victorious outcome.
While tourists may visit Bonampak, it is a rather difficult and distant journey from anywhere else, and the murals are much less visible than in the photographs from the 1940s. No flash photography is allowed within the Temple of the Murals. Today a good idea of the murals can be gained by visiting the full-scale reproduction of the temple in the National Museum of Anthropology & History in Mexico City.
Since the construction of the Border Highway by the Mexican government in the early 1990s, Bonampak is much more accessible to tourists.