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The lake being the beautiful place that it is, you can bet that many different cultures have attempted to stick around. The current residents are relatively recent. The Tzutujiles and the Cakchiqueles arrived with the Quiche's around 1250 AD.


But before them the story went kind of like this;

The Preclassic Period:

At the end of the Pleistocene , hunters and gatherers probably inhabited parts of the highlandsThese people eventually settled down and engaged in simple farming.No Early Preclassic (1500 - 1000 BC) sites have been found in the highland part of this region, but there are signs that there were areas around the Nahualate river that were occupied.

More information is available about the middle ( 1000- 600 BB) to late Preclassic(600 BC - AD 300) Periods. At this time Chukumuk, near the present day town of Santiago, starts showing signs of habitation.The estimate is that approx 100 people lived in Chukumuk at the time. They were not Mayas; their pottery shards are of Usultán ware, that was from eastern El Salvador.

The Early Classic Period

During the Early Classic Period (A.D.300- 700) terraces started appearing. This period is noted for the influence of Teotihuacan, a large site in central Mexico. Throughout Guatemala at this time there was a noted influence on the whole culture , including the makeup of the ceremonial sites.There was trade throughout the whole area.. There were still no large monumental centers built up.

The Late Classic Period

 ( A.D.700- 1000)There was not much change in the cultural scene around the lake area to distinguish this era except that the influence of Teotihuacan waned and was eventually replaced by a Nahua- speaking people who invaded the highlands. They are reffered to as Pipils in the early colonial documents.

These Pipil intruders brought with them a style of art known aChucumuks the Cotzumalhuapan style. Stone sculptures, ball courts, mushroom stones, and many other manifestations of the pipil culture were popping up all over Guatemala. It is dificult to determine how much direct influence was felt on the lake.

Chukumuk, the only large town we know about from that time, was made up of commoners, and didn't benefit much from the interchange. Ethnohistorical sources indicate that the Tzutujiles and the Pipiles were allies in the Post Classic period, and this relationship may have been stronger than we can presently determine.


The Early Postclassic Period

During the Early Postclassic Period A.D. 1000-1200) much of the Guatemalan highlands  came under the influence of the Toltecs from Chichén Itzá. Mexican artistic motifs and architectual forms started appearing at the bigger sites.During this time, reflecting the changes , the people started moving from the lower areas and began building fortresses higher up. The reasons for these changes were purely defensive: the new culture had introduced a new way of being.

Chiya' at the site of the present day Chuitinamit , shows signs of habitation from this period. The site there ( see diagram ) is in the style of these toltec invaders. It is believed that the monuments here date from the Middle Postclassic Era.


The Late Postclassic Period

JaguarAt the beginning of Late Postclassic times ( A.D. 1200- 1524) another wave of Mexican influence swept through the area, apparently coming once again from the Tabasco- Veracruz area. The documents tell of  small bands of warriors who entered Guatemala at this time; the ancestors of todays Quiches, Tzutujiles, and Cakchiqueles. They each eventually settled into their own zones; the Quiches at K'umarcaaj ( Utatlan), near present day Quiche,  the Cakchiqueles at Iximche',near Tecpan, and the Tzutujiles at Chiya',across the bay from the present day Santiago Atitlan.The peoples' cultures that had lived in these areas ( Pipils)  were assimilated by the invading tribes, subtly changing and blending the diverse cultures.

 The Popol Vuh tells how the three groups traveled from Tula, fighting each other all the way , with the Quiche emerging as the dominant tribe. Although it is not clear who arrived in Guatemala first, by 1250 the Tzutujiles were established around the lake.

Sometime between 1325 and 1350 the Quiche king C'ocaibtimeline journeyed back to Tula to establish ties with the motherland and to seek new power symbols from the the Tolec ruler, Nacxit. They recieved such powerful mana that their supremacy upon returning to Guatemala was inevitable.The Tzutujiles were considered second in power, as they had been the second of the tribes to enter Tula, and recieved slightly weaker gods.... the difference a little time makes!!! The Quiche's political sway became supreme after Cocaib's trip and by 1400 the other tribes were totally under the hegemony of the Quiche rulers by 1400. In 1470 a great feast was held where the Quiche's convoked and divided the subserviant tribes into two categories. Those considered to be Quiche' were placed in one category and all the " enemy peoples " were placed in the other. The Tzutujiles were placed in the enemy category. They promptly responded by taking part in a revolt against the Quiche ruler, Q'uicab, that was successful and that allowed them full autonomy for the first time since 1250. This revolt was so successful that it caused the fall of the Quiche empire. The whole area slipped into anarchy at that point.The Tzutujiles, in their fortresses at Chiya' and Chukumuk, began a rather militaristic era, the two towns struggling for supremacy, with Chiya', where the A'Tziquinaha ( The house of Birds) moiety ruled , eventually winning. The Cakchiqueles established Iximche as their capital at this time.The Tzutjila' moiety, from Chukumuk began paying tribute to the A'Tziquinaha's. The pyramids , plazas and buildings at Chiya got more complex, with sacrificial altars set up on special energy spots and the carvings evolving. A relative peace with the Quiches was broken in approximately 1485, when the ruler of Chiya' , the A'tziquinajay abducted one of the Quiche princesses, and began a whole new period of intense warfare between the two tribes. According to the record, the Tzutujils didn't do so well, losing battle after battle and almost losing their territory, as the Quiches managed to conquer many of the outlying tzutujil towns.This period of endemic strife lasted until 1501, with the Tzutujil territory suffering greatly. The peace came about because the Pipils, who were allied to the Tzutujiles, lost a war to the Cakchiqueles, who made them give up helping the Tzutujiles in their war with the Quiche'. There is no record of any warfare on the lake between 1501 and 1521. There was a formal peace between the Tzutujiles and the Cakchiqueles, who were their closest neighbors.Then , on September 2, 1521, the A'Tziquinahay were faced with an internal revolt from the people at Chukumuk.. Their response was brutal; they contacted the new King of the Cakchiqueles, Ajpop Achi' Tzían, and got his help with mercenaries to put down the revolt. He came with his armies and captured Chukumuk, putting to death the rulers there and returning the power to the A'Tziquinaha. After the revolt the relations between the Tzutujiles and the Cakchiqueles deteriorated quickly until, by the time of the conquest, they were at war with each other again.