Yuknoom the Great and Calakmul

Calakmul is situated in Campeche, Mexico on the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. It is now an isolated archaeological site on the largest bioreserve in Mexico, but it was once the seat of one of the most powerful dynasties in the Maya world. A Maya group currently lives on site and maintains the entrance to the bioreserve. The architecture is in the Petén style, but maintains the monumental architecture that is found throughout the Mesoamerican world. Stucco friezes, a horizontal carving or painting as decoration made out of stucco, and painted murals have been found at Calakmul that are truly one of a kind because they depict the life of the commoners or the daily life of Calakmul. This genre depicting the daily life of the non-aristocratic life in friezes is not seen elsewhere in the Mesoamerican world. Calakmul is a UNESCO heritage site as of 2002, to be selected as a UNESCO site the location must be of universal cultural or environmental value and meet the criteria set by the organization. The site was extended in 2014 to include the biosphere.

Yuknoom Ch'een or Yuknoom the Great was born in 600 CE and was the ruler of the city state of Calakmul from 636 to 686 CE. He was a part of the Kaan Dynasty that has been nicknamed Snake Dynasty due to Calakmul's emblem glyph being a snake’s head. This places his reign during the Classic Period of Maya civilization and during Calakmul's height of power and prestige. With this great leader Calakmul became one of four powerhouses of the Maya world during the Classic Period. Yuknoom Ch'een was the ruler that brought Calakmul to its height and led to its victory in 677 CE over its arch rival to the south, Tikal, its Bat Dynasty and their allies. The political ties made between Calakmul and its allies were personal ones, some made through marriages. They ruled over their weaker domains through political dominance and defeated their enemies with military might. Yuknoom Ch'een has many monuments dedicated to him within the archaeological site of Calakmul.

It is believed that Yuknoom the Great is buried in the tallest temple, Structure 2, where four tombs have been found within this temple, including his son's tomb, Jaguar Paw or Yuknoom Yich'aak K'ahk. Since Yuknoom the Great was in his late eighties during the end of his reign, it is argued that his later achievements were led by his successor Yuknoom Yich'aak K'ahk. Upon Yuknoom Yich'aak K'ahk’s ascension to the throne in 686 CE another war with Tikal began. He ruled until around 695 CE when Tikal defeated Calakmul for the first time. Calakmul was defeated once more by their archrivals after that in 744 CE.