Undisturbed Mayan tomb reveals intriguing secrets of ‘snake kings’
In recent weeks, archaeologists have found two tombs in Guatemala that have “miraculously” escaped the notice of looters, and the contents could well shake up everything we know about how the Mayan empire worked.
|A 3D scan of the frieze decorating a tomb-containing building at Holmul, showing a king wearing an avian |
sun god headdress emerging from a sacred mountain spirit head amid feathered serpents
[Credit: Picasa/A Tokvinine, U Alabama]
"We never suspected until now how the Mayan super-state operated," Francisco Estrada-Belli, a Tulane University research assistant professor directing excavations at Holmul, told Fox News Latino. "This gives us a unique glimpse, looking at it not from the center but from the margins."
The tombs date to 650 to 700 A.D., some 800 years before Europeans arrived in the Americas, and a time when the Mayan culture reached its peak before its descent into a mysterious collapse.
|Tomb found in Holmul ruins [Credit: Picasa/Estrada-Belli]|
Apart from the various ceramics and other objects made of bone, shell and jade were two items that are very suggestive.
One was a human tibia that had an inscription carved into it.
“A very, very rare find,” Estrada-Belli, who grew up in Guatemala and Italy, told the Guardian. “It could be from an ancestor or a captive of war.”
|Reconstructed view of Holmul in the final phase of the classic period |
[Credit: Picasa/J Gonzalez, PACUNAM]
The other tomb, which was located in a different pyramid, contained a jade necklace bearing the symbol of the "Snake King," the ruler of a dynasty that for much of the 700s controlled a large part of the Guatemalan jungle from Dzinbache, a city a hundred miles north of Holmul, in what is today Mexico.
For the better part of two centuries, the snake kings battled with the rulers of Tikal for control of smaller kingdoms like Holmul, Naranjo and Xunantunich.
|Jade carving of a ruler wearing a crocodile head |
"For some reason, when they built a new edifice here, they wouldn't destroy the older ones," he said. "In other places, that kind of preservation isn't typically seen."
One of the biggest problems with excavations in Guatemala is the amount of looting that takes place at the archaeological sites. Estrada-Belli said that when he first started digging at Holmul in 2000, there were six tunnels that looters had dug in the site.
"They hacked things up pretty savagely," he said.
One of the most impressive finds he's made recently, the frieze of a building bearing the carved image of three kings, "was a stroke of incredible luck," he told FNL. "One of the tunnels passed less than 8 inches away. If the looters had moved one stone, they could have broken it."
Estrada-Belli and his team are also involved in developing a new technique to search for archaeological sites that, he believes, "will revolutionize the field and lead to dozens of discoveries."
The new technology involved firing lasers at the jungle canopy in northern Guatemala from helicopters, in order to create detailed imagery of the Earth’s surface.
"We will likely see that Mayan cities were much more extensive than we realize," he told FNL. "With broad roadways, canals, terraces cultivated with crops, temples in areas where we haven't previously found them."
"It's very probable,” he said, “that we will discover large, important cities we had no idea existed before."
Author: Bill Vourvoulias | Source: Fox News Latino [October 21, 2016]