While some parts of Western Maya have been well studied, such as the famous Palenque site, we don’t know much about other parts, in large part due to the dense tropical canopy that hid ancient societies from view. For example, Scherer and his colleagues in the area only discovered the kingdom of Sak Tza’i in 2019, something archaeologists have been searching for for decades.
The team selected for their research a rectangular plot of land connecting three Maya kingdoms: Piedras Negras, La Mar and Sac Tza’i, whose political capital was located around the archaeological site of Lacanga Tziltal.
Scherer said that although the three urban centers were only about 15 miles (25 kilometers) apart, their population size and boards of directors were very different. “Today there are hundreds of different nation-states in the world, but they are not entirely equal in terms of the power they have in the geopolitical landscape,” he said. We see it also in the Maya Empire.”
Scherer explained that the Three Kingdoms were ruled by Ajau or Lourdes – theoretically putting them on an equal footing. But Piedras Negras, the greatest kingdom, was headed by Kuhul Ajao, a special honorific title not claimed by the lords of Lamar and Sak Tza’i. La Mar and Sak Tz’i were not quite equal: although La Mar had a much larger population than the capital city of Sak Tz’i, Lacanjá Tzeltal and Sak Tzi’i were more independent, often forming alliances alternating and that was never seemingly subservient to other kingdoms, indicating that they enjoyed greater political independence.