What calamity could have happened at the dawn of the 10th century to this once influential city that today lies in ruin? The secrecy endures, though archeologists are categorical on unsure points. It was here, Tonia in the present-day state of Chiapas in Mexico, that the last traces of activity of the great Maya civilization have been found and recorded. The inscriptions and steles are dating back to the year 909 precisely. No one
is proficient to say what happened after then. How did this vital place, which boasted thirteen temples and eight palaces, and which had shown itself to be more resilient than its esteemed neighbors Palenque, Tikal, and Bonampak, come to be so viciously wiped out?
Somewhere between 909 and 1808, the year remains of the city were comprehensively described for the first time by Guillermo Dupaix. He was an officer of French origin, on the orders of King Carlos IV of Spain, yawns a gap of nine centuries. For once, the Spanish conquistadors, whose sensitivity to the native populations of Central America is well recognized, have little to reproach themselves with: By the time they arrived at the beginning of the 16th century.
Moreover, Tonina had already been dumped for a long, long time. It had not been ruined, following the deplorable custom beloved of conquering warriors and natural disasters alike, but simply abandoned and then devoured by the equatorial forest. It is as if the inhabitants had decided one fine morning to refuse their sacred royalty and the concept of the city-state, hitherto pillars of their political system, and to quit the city without delay in order to start a new life elsewhere.
Did the more than thirty years of drought around the turn of the tenth century diagnosed by scientists for the relevant period have something to do with it? May the disparity between demographic development and the deterioration of the arable land lie at the heart of this drama? If so, why would a civilization this well organized not simply reconstitute itself at a more constructive site?
Maybe these questions can be answered by contemplating the ancient stones of Tonina, engulfed by greenery a few miles from the city of Ocosingo, or by looking out for anything that can offer an insight into the past, such as the discovery in 2010 of a sarcophagus more than a thousand years old, or by entirely appreciating the outstanding thumbing of the nose by this lost civilization. Tonia is one of the very few in the history of humanity to have confounded generations of researchers.