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Tiny Camera Reveals Early Mayan Tomb

June 24, 2011

Researchers said Thursday that a tiny remote-controlled camera lowered into an early Mayan tomb in southern Mexico has helped reveal an intact funeral chamber with offerings and red-painted wall murals.

The tomb was discovered in 1999 inside a pyramid among the ruins of the Mayan city of Palenque in the hills of the southern Mexican state of Chipas.Â

The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said in a release on Thursday that archaeologists had not been able to access the vault believed to hold the remains of a Mayan ruler who lived between A.D. 431 and 550 until now.

Researchers were able to get the first view of the intact tomb after dropping the small camera 16 feet deep through a small hole at the top of the pyramid.

“The characteristics of the funeral site show that the bones could belong to a sacred ruler from Palenque, probably one of the founders of a dynasty,” archeologist Martha Cuevas said in a statement.

The Mayans flourished between A.D. 250 through 900 and Palenque is one of the most important Mayan archaeological sites.

Cuevas said the discovery shed new light on early rulers, and its proximity to other burial sites suggested the tomb may be part of a funerary complex.

“All this leads us to consider that the Southern Acropolis was used as a royal necropolis during that period,” Cuevas said.

Susan Gillespie, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Florida who was not involved in the project, said in a statement: “This is an important find for Palenque and for understanding Early Classic Maya history and politics,” partly because the later rulers who made the city-state larger built atop their predecessors’ temples and tombs, making it hard to get at them.

“Palenque was a relatively important western Maya capital in the Early Classic, but with the buildup during the time of Pakal and some of his successors, those accomplishments were buried and thus difficult to assess, buried literally by Late Classic structures atop Early Classic ones,” Gillespie wrote.

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