Category Archives: GUATEMALA

The tomb of Mayan “God-King” discovered in Guatemala, his status determined by the carved jade mask

The tomb of Mayan “God-King” discovered in Guatemala, his status determined by the carved jade mask

The grave of an old Mayan king was found in the pre – Columbian El Perú-Waka ‘s site in Guatemala by archeologists. The royal tomb, dating back to 300–350AD, was the oldest in the northwest part of the Petén region

“We agree this could be one of the first rulers of the Wak empire, even if estimates are preliminary and need further study,” archeologist Griselda Perez Robles told LiveScience via email.

Together with two colleagues, Pérez Robles helped lead the tunnel excavations in the Acropolis of the site and the findings were carried out.

The jade mask found in Burial 80 at the El Perú-Waka’ Regional Archaeological Project in Guatemala. Courtesy of Proyecto Arqueológico Waka’ and the Ministry of Culture and Sports of Guatemala.

“Excavations from outside the building took 76 days of uninterrupted work,” Pérez Robles added, noting that the discovery of the tomb itself took place on day 65 and required eight intensive days of work.

“We removed one of the rocks and could see a funeral chamber with bone remains. Their offerings were covered with cinnabar, which indicated that it was a personage of royalty.”

The discovery of Burial 80 at the El Perú-Waka’ Regional Archaeological Project in Guatemala. Courtesy of Proyecto Arqueológico Waka’ and the Ministry of Culture and Sports of Guatemala.

The tomb, the seventh to be found at the site, has been named Burial 80. It contained a carved jade mask that depicts the departed ruler as the Maya god of maize, as well as 22 ceramic vessels, Spondylus shells, jade ornaments, and a shell pendant carved in the shape of a crocodile.

“The Classic Maya revered their divine rulers and treated them as living souls after death,” David Freidel told the Source at Washington University in St. Louis, where he is a professor of anthropology.

“This king’s tomb helped to make the royal palace acropolis holy ground, a place of majesty, early in the history of the Wak dynasty.”

Excavation of Burial 39 at El Perú-Waka’, Petén, Guatemala, Left to right: Jennifer Piehl, Michelle Rich, and Varinia Matute

Located at the intersection of the San Pedro and San Juan rivers, El Perú-Waka’ was a key area of commercial exchange in Petén in ancient times.

“The discovery of Burial 80 allows us to get closer to the knowledge of the first centuries of the site, when it was in development, although it already had an established social organization and a complex ideological system,” said Pérez.

Excavations have been ongoing at the El Perú-Waka’ Regional Archaeological Project since 2003. 

“The site, given its history and influence in the region, is extraordinary,” said Pérez Robles. “It would not be surprising if further findings of great relevance continue to be uncovered.”

Grave of the king who laid foundations for Mayan civilization in 700 B.C. unearthed

Grave of the king who laid foundations for Mayan civilization in 700 B.C. unearthed

This is the extraordinary grave of an ancient king credited with laying the foundations for the Mayan civilization more than 2,000 years ago, which has been discovered by archaeologists in Guatemala.

Researchers said they uncovered the grave of King K’utz Chman, a priest who is believed to have reigned around 700 B.C., at the Tak’alik Ab’aj dig in Retalhuleu, in the south-west of the country.

Packed with jade jewels and other artefacts, it is the oldest royal Mayan burial ground ever found.

‘He was the big chief,’ government archaeologist Miguel Orrego said. ‘The ruler who bridged the gaps between Olmec (pre-Mayan) and Mayan cultures and initiated the slow transition to Mayan rule.’

Historians believe he was the first leader to introduce elements that would define Mayan culture, such as building pyramids instead of square structures and carving sculptures that profiled royal families.

Guatemala is studded with ruins from the ancient Mayan civilization, which thrived between A.D. 250 and 800 and extended from modern-day Honduras to central Mexico. The Olmec Empire began to fade around 400 B.C. while Mayans grew in number and wrested control of trade routes.

Inside the grave, the team found glistening jade jewels including a necklace with a pendant carved in the shape of a vulture’s head, a symbol that represented power and high economic status, and that was given to respected elder men.

Amazing find: More pots found in the royal tomb of the Mayan king, located to the west of Guatemala City
Verification: Scientists found the grave in June, but it has taken until now to confirm it belonged to K’utz Chman
Past times: Ceramic dolls found in the royal tomb of the Mayan king discovered at the Tak’alik Ab’aj dig

This symbol gives this burial greater importance,’ Mr. Orrego said. ‘This glyph says he (is) one of the earliest rulers of Tak’alik Ab’aj.’

Scientists found the grave last year, but it has taken until now for experts to verify it belonged to K’utz Chman.

Although no human remains were found at the site, the carbon-dated artefacts suggest that the king was buried between 770 to 510 B.C.

‘The richness of the artifacts tells us he was an important and powerful religious leader,’ archaeologist Christa Schieber said. ‘He was very likely the person who began to make the changes in the system and transition into the Mayan world.’

Jade beans: Guatemala is studded with amazing ruins from the Mayans, who thrived between A.D. 250 and 800
Importance: The team found glistening jade jewels, including a necklace with a pendant carved in the shape of a vulture’s head – a symbol that represented power and high economic status
On location: The site of the discovery of the royal tomb at the Tak’alik Ab’aj dig in Retalhuleu in Guatemala

Experts said the array of jade articles in the tomb could provide clues about production and trade.

Susan Gillespie, an archaeologist at the University of Florida who was not involved in the excavation, spoke about the find.

She said older tombs have been found from ruling circles at the Mayan site of Copan in Honduras as well as in southern Mexico, where the pre-Mayan Olmec culture flourished.

Olmec influences are present in the area around Tak’alik Ab’aj, indicating possible links.

She said that because it is near a jadeite production center, the find could shed light on early techniques and trade in the stone, which was considered by the Maya to have sacred properties.