Ancient Tomb Could Contain Mayan King

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Maya mask. Stucco frieze from Placeres, Campeche. Early Classic period ~250–600 AD

An undisturbed tomb in Guatemala found last May is possibly the final resting place of royalty.

At the Guatemalan site of El Zotz, a team of archeologists from Brown University in Rhode Island were excavating beneath the El Diablo pyramid when they became intrigued by something concerning a small temple near the dig site. The temple had been built facing a structure containing images of the Mayan sun god, and when the archeologists began digging in one chamber of the temple, they made an amazing discovery that hadn’t seen the light of day for nearly 1,600 years.

Caches of Human Teeth and Fingers

One of the first things the team discovered as they worked their way down through the layers of mud and stone beneath the temple was a series of small caches or bowls containing human fingers and teeth. The purpose of these grisly artifacts is still unknown, but they probably represent some type of ritual sacrifice in honor of the tomb’s occupant.

Tomb Lay Undisturbed for 1,600 Years

The stone and mud layers packed on top of the tomb evidently kept out the elements very effectively, for when the archeologists reached the tomb chamber itself, they found it incredibly well-preserved, with even the lingering smell of death still intact. The tomb measures about twelve feet long, four feet wide, and six feet high.

By the light of a single bulb lowered into the initial hole the team had dug into the tomb, they were able to discern a wondrous display of textiles, ceramics, wood carvings and other artifacts, the bright colors of which were completely undimmed by time.

Sacrificial Skeletons

Aside from the rich store of artifacts in the tomb and aside from its main resident, the team also discovered six skeletons — or actually what appear to be four complete skeletons and two skulls — that apparently belonged to children aged between one and five years old. Forensic work has been ongoing since the tomb’s discovery on May 29, 2010, but at this point the presence of the skeletons is still largely unexplained. However, it’s likely that the children were sacrificed and entombed as an offering to the important individual for whom the tomb was constructed.

Final Resting Place of a Mayan King?

The remains of the tomb’s main occupant are at this stage believed to belong to an adult male, though more analysis will have to be done in order to confirm this. Particular artifacts in the tomb and their abundance, and particular iconographic pieces found on and around the body — such as a large headdress decorated with glyphs, jewelry containing bells made of dog canines and shells, and a ritual knife covered in what might be blood — suggest that the person laid to rest in the tomb was possibly royalty, a king and the founder of a dynasty. Judging from the age and location of the tomb, the team speculated, the remains could belong to Chak, one of the kings named in a series of Mayan hieroglyphic texts.

Source:

  1. LiveScience Staff, “Bowls of Human Fingers and Teeth Found in Mayan Tomb”. LiveScience.
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