Discovery in Guatemala finds oldest royal Mayan tomb

Apr 06, 2011 by Deborah Braconnier report
A drawing of the incense burner found in a tomb, ~350 BC. The tri-lobed forehead symbol is a marker of the Jester god. Drawing: Fernando Alvarez / Holmul Archaeological Project

(PhysOrg.com) -- At the recent Society for American Archaeology meeting in Sacramento, California, archaeologist Michael Callaghan from the University of Texas presented his team's findings from the ancient site of K'o (now modern-day Guatemala) and what they believe to be the oldest known royal Mayan tomb.

Excavating under a wealthy home, the team, led by Dr. John Tomasic, Research Associate at the University of Kansas, discovered a lid leading to a tunnel of about 16 inches wide. Following the tunnel, they discovered a chultan, or
storage chamber, where a burial was performed.

Within this storage chamber they discovered a body they believe to have been a man in his fifties who was reasonably healthy when he died. Within the chultan they also discovered a collection of seven ceramic containers, including the piece that signified the royal find.

An incense burner with the “jester god headdress” symbol, a known symbol of royalty, was found alongside the body.

The pottery found comes from the period when Mayan ceramics began to change to that of the deep red color, dating this find back to 350BC. Radiocarbon dating of a bone sample from the body confirms this date, making this find the oldest royal Mayan tomb ever discovered.

Until this discovery, the oldest Mayan ruler to be discovered was found in San Bartolo in 2005 and was dated back to 100BC. The discovery in San Bartolo was also found underneath a home and not within a pyramid temple which is common with the Mayan rulers of a later period.

This discovery shows that the Mayan idea of rulers and their civilization had been in place much longer than had originally been believed by scholars. Tomasic and his team believe that continuing to excavate under more homes in the area may reveal more of these royal burials.

Explore further: Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Related Stories

Rare early Mayan portrait is found

Dec 05, 2005

University of Calgary archaeologist Kathryn Reese-Taylor and an international team of researchers have discovered an early Mayan portrait of a woman.

Mayan king's tomb discovered in Guatemala

Jul 16, 2010

A well-preserved tomb of an ancient Mayan king has been discovered in Guatemala by a team of archaeologists led by Brown University's Stephen Houston. The tomb is packed with of carvings, ceramics, textiles, and the bones ...

Oldest Mesoamerican pyramid tomb found in Mexico

May 18, 2010

(AP) -- Archaeologists in southern Mexico announced Monday they have discovered a 2,700-year-old tomb of a dignitary inside a pyramid that may be the oldest such burial documented in Mesoamerica.

Giant sculptured Mayan head found

Jan 27, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A decorated Mayan head measuring three meters (10 feet) at the base and sculptured out of stucco has been unearthed in northern Guatemala, near the border with Mexico. The sculpture had been ...

Mexico: Maya tomb find could help explain collapse

Jan 28, 2010

(AP) -- Mexican archaeologists have found an 1,100-year-old tomb from the twilight of the Maya civilization that they hope may shed light on what happened to the once-glorious culture.

Recommended for you

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Apr 19, 2014

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

Apr 17, 2014

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

Apr 17, 2014

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Clippers and coiners in 16th-century England

In 2017 a new £1 coin will appear in our pockets with a design extremely difficult to forge. In the mid-16th century, Elizabeth I's government came up with a series of measures to deter "divers evil persons" ...

Growing app industry has developers racing to keep up

Smartphone application developers say they are challenged by the glut of apps as well as the need to update their software to keep up with evolving phone technology, making creative pricing strategies essential to finding ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.