Perched on the western bank of the Usumacinta River, Yaxchilán ("the place of green stones") lay along the trade route between the two great Maya sites of Palenque and Tikal. But today it stands in a remote, little-visited jungle setting. Known for its handsome temples and striking carvings, this white-stoned city reached its peak during the Late Classic Period, from about A.D. 680 to 770. Two acropolises with temples, grand staircases, and a palace dominate the site. Legend has it that a headless sculpture of the god Yaxachtun at the site formerly terrified the local Lacandon people, who feared that the world would end when the head was replaced.
The pierced roof comb of Temple 33 is characteristic of Yaxchilán's striking architecture.