October 26, 2012
Archaeologists Find Tomb Of Mayan Ruler
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Archaeologists have uncovered a tomb complete with jade jewelry and decorations that belong to an early Mayan ruler.
Archaeologists Miguel Orrego said carbon-dating indicates the tomb was built between 700 and 400 B.C., which was several hundred years before the culture reached its peak.
According to Orrego, the discovered tomb is the oldest so far found at the site, which is located in southern Guatemala.
He said a necklace depicting a vulture-headed human figure helped to identify the tomb's occupant as a ruler.
"This symbol gives this burial greater importance," Orrego said in a statement. "This glyph says he ... is one of the earliest rulers of Tak'alik Ab'aj."
The archaeologists did not find any bones during the excavation, most likely because they have decayed over time.
The scientists named the grave's occupant K'utz Chman, which means Grandfather Vulture in the Mayan language.
"He was a big chief", Orrego said in the statement. "He bridged the gap between the Olmec and Mayan cultures in central America."
He could have been the first leader to introduce elements like building the pyramids and the carving of sculptures depicting the royal families, according to Reuters.
"The richness of the artifacts tells us he was an important and powerful religious leader," archaeologist Christa Schieber said in a statement to the Mail Online. "He was very likely the person who began to make the changes in the system and transition into the Mayan world."
Experts said the jade jewelry found around the tomb could provide clues about production and trade patterns.
Susan Gillespie, an archaeologist at the University of Florida who was not involved in the excavation, said that older tombs have been found from ruling circles at the Mayan site of Copan in Honduras, as well as southern Mexico.
She said that because it is near a jadeite production center, the discovery may be able to help shed some light on early techniques and trade in the stone.
The Olmec empire began to fade at around 400 B.C., while the Mayan civilization started to grow, said Schieber.
The Mayans ruled much of Central America from 250 to 800 A.D., dominating from modern-day Honduras to central Mexico.