There are a handful of important cities in Ahau, the boad game. Seibal is the largest archeological site in the southwestern Maya Lowlands. The city is also known as El Ceibal in Spanish, which translates to “where the ceiba trees grow.”
The ceiba tree holds a great spiritual significance, believed to be the sacred “tree of life”. To the ancient Maya, the Ceiba tree represented the connection between the three levels of the world (underworld, human/middle world, the world of the gods). It was called Yaxche, and it played an essential role in the story of creation. Given its spiritual importance in Maya mythology, the Yaxche tree was often portrayed through art, on pottery, on the walls of buildings, and the Maya people planted Ceiba trees around places that were considered sacred or spiritual.
The early history of Seibal is almost entirely unknown as the city suffered defeat from the kingdom near the Petexbatun lake in their warfare, which caused their early sculptures to be destroyed.
The earliest source about Seibal claims that the city was heavily involved in the long warfare between Tikal and Calakmul. Tikal established a new, small city called Dos Pilas, but it was quickly taken over by Calakmul. The ruler of this new kingdom, Ucha’an K’in B’alam attacked Seibal and took the king, Yich’aak B’alam as a hostage. The valuable captive was not executed, but he became a vassal of Dos Pilas.