Tomb Of Mayan Queen Discovered In Guatemala
October 4, 2012

Archeologists Uncover Rare Tomb Of Mayan Queen In Guatemala

[ Watch the Video: Tomb of Maya queen K'abel Found in Guatemala ]

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

A team of archaeologists, including scientists from the Washington University in St. Louis and the College of Wooster, has discovered the tomb of Mayan queen Lady K'abel, a seventh-century Holy Snake Lord considered one of the greatest queens of the Classic Maya civilization.

During excavations of the royal Maya city of El Perú-Waka´ in northwestern Petén, Guatemala, the team found the tomb that supposedly to belonged to Lady K'abel. The tomb was identified in early June.

El Peru-Waka' is located approximately 75 kilometers west of Tikal, Guatemala. The city was part of Classic Maya civilization, which lasted from around 200 — 900 AD in the southern lowlands of Central America. It consists of nearly one square kilometer of plazas, palaces, temple pyramids and homes surrounded by several kilometers of dispersed homes and temples.

The team came to the conclusion that this is Lady K'abel's tomb because of a small, carved alabaster jar found in the burial chamber.  The jar is carved to resemble a conch shell, with the head and arm of an aged woman emerging from the opening.  The mature woman with a lined face and a strand of hair in front of her ear, and four glyphs carved into the jar, point to the jar belonging to K'abel.

The jar as well as other evidence — including roughly 21 ceramic vessels, a large spondylus shell and many carved jade and shell artifacts found in the tomb and stela (large stone slab) carvings on the outside — led Dr. David Freidel of Washington University and his team to believe that the tomb is that of Lady K'abel.

The discovery is significant for two reasons: First, the tomb is that of an important historical figure in Maya history.  Secondly, the newly uncovered tomb represents a rare instance where the archaeological record and Maya historical records converge.

“The Classic Maya civilization is the only ℠classical´ archaeological field in the New World — in the sense that like archaeology in Ancient Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia or China, there is both an archaeological material record and an historical record based on texts and images,” Freidel says.

“The precise nature of the text and image information on the white stone jar and its tomb context constitute a remarkable and rare conjunction of these two kinds of records in the Maya area.”

“The late Robert Sharer advanced an approach to Maya archaeology he called the ℠conjunctive approach,´ which is the analysis of historical information in tandem with archaeological evidence.” explained Olivia Navarro-Farr, anthropology professor at the College of Wooster. “This discovery represents a unique instance in which the archaeological context includes textual information, which bears directly on the evidence.”

The focus of the archaeological team has been to uncover and study "ritually charged" features at El Peru-Waka'. They have been looking for features such as shrines, altars and dedicatory offerings rather than for burial locations of particular individuals.

“In retrospect, it makes a lot of sense that the people of Waka´ buried her in this particularly prominent place in their city,” Freidel says.

The area is of great interest to Friedel and Navarro-Farr because it was the location of an important temple that was the focus of much ritual attention for generations after the fall of the dynasty at El Peru. Now, the scientists understand the most likely reason why the temple was so revered:  Lady K'abel was buried there.

Considered the greatest ruler of the Late Classic period, K'abel ruled with her husband K'inich Bahlam for at least 20 years from 672 — 692 AD.  K'abel was the military governor of the Wak kingdom for her family. Additionally, K'abel belonged to the imperial house of the Snake King, and she carried the title of "Kaloomte´," which means "Supreme Warrior." She also had more authority than her husband, the king.

K'abel is also portrayed on one the famous Maya sculpted stone monuments, Stela 34 of El Peru, which is now housed in the Cleveland Art Museum.

“We´ve been at the site for a number of years,” says Navarro-Farr. “Our objective was to define architecture, and establish a tighter chronology. We were hoping this season´s research would address our question of why this building received so much ritual attention throughout its final occupation. Needless to say, encountering a royal tomb is not only tremendously exciting and rewarding, but also humbling. It is an honor for all of us to share in and carry this work forward.”