sábado, 1 de octubre de 2011

ArchaeoHeritage - 2,000-year-old burial of Maya queen discovered

The skeleton of a Maya Queen - with her head mysteriously placed between two bowls - is just one of the treasures found in a 2,000-year-old rodent-infested tomb. 

The skeleton of a Maya Queen - with her head mysteriously placed between two bowls - is just one of the treasures found in a 2,000-year-old rodent-infested tomb [Credit: Wiesław Koszkul, Nakum Archaeological Project]

Priceless jade gorgets, beads, and ceremonial knives were also discovered in the cavern - which was found underneath a younger 1,300-year-old tomb which also contained a body - in the Guatemalan ruins of Nakum. 

The two royal burials are the first to be discovered at the site, which was once a densely packed Maya centre. 

The head of the dead woman found in the tomb was covered by a vessel [Credit: Jarosław Źrałka, Nakum Archaeological Project]

Wiesław Koszkul and colleagues from the Jagiellonian University Institute of Archaeology in Krakow, Poland, have been investigating Nakum's surroundings, known as the Cultural Triangle, for decades.  

Koszkul said: 'We think this structure was something like a mausoleum for the royal lineage for at least 400 years.' 

Archaeologists excavate the upper level of the Structure 15 pyramid in a picture taken in 2008 [Credit: Robert Słaboński, Nakum Archaeological Project]

The upper tomb's corpse had been badly destroyed by rodents over the intervening centuries, but researchers said it was clearly the body of another Maya ruler. 

They also believed it could be of a woman because of a small size of a ring found in the tomb. Excavations started on the site, which had been completely overtaken by the jungle, in 2006. 

Nine flint knives dating to the Late Classic period (A.D. 600 to 700) were excavated from the upper royal burial [Credit: Robert Słaboński, Nakum Archaeological Project]

Once inside the first level of the tomb, the scientists noticed cracks in the floor and when they cut through the floor, they found the second, older crypt. 

Koszkul said: 'I think we could find some more burials beneath the level we excavated, [but] our excavations – our test pits – are very narrow.' 

Three signet rings bearing stylized representations of faces were among artifacts deposited directly above the 1,300-year-old ruler at least a hundred years after he or she was buried [Credit: Robert Słaboński, Nakum Archaeological Project]
He said he did not know exactly why the body had been buried with bowls.But that he had seen 'similar patterns' in the Guatemalan site of Tikal. 

And he admitted that the royal figure's gender had also taken them by surprise. 'It’s surprising to me – we were expecting a male,' he said. 

This jade pectoral, or gorget, was worn as part of a larger necklace across the chest of the ruler buried in the upper tomb [Credit: Robert Słaboński, Nakum Archaeological Project]

'What was really amazing was that the tomb was unlooted, despite the fact that we found looters' trenches around the side,' said project director Jaroslaw Zralka. 

The Mayan Civilisation is the general name given to several independent, loosely affiliated city states who shared a cultural heritage. 

This is what one of the pyramid's at Nakum would have looked like, according to researchers [Credit: Breitner Gonzáles, Nakum Archaeological Project]

They occupied central America, including the southern parts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. 

It was an area of about 150,000 square miles - researchers tend to split the Maya into the Highland and Lowland Maya. 

The Maya are thought to have existed between 500 BC and AD 900. The various groups spoke nearly 30 closely related languages and dialects. 

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Source The Archaeology News Network

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