September 28, 2005

Scientists Pinpoint Mystery Maya City in Guatemala

GUATEMALA -- A Mayan city whose fabulous art has beguiled collectors for decades but whose true location was until now a mystery has been pinpointed in the jungles of northern Guatemala, scientists said on Tuesday.

'Site Q' has been a Holy Grail of archeology ever since an exquisite set of Mayan artworks from the period A.D. 600 to 900 showed up in U.S. and European museums and galleries in the 1970s.

Now researchers have found a sculpture at ruins long known as La Corona in Guatemala that matches the mysterious gallery pieces, said Salvador Lopez, Guatemala's head of historical monuments.

International researchers had increasingly speculated that La Corona was Site Q, and the recent find leaves no doubt, Lopez said.

"The panel confirms that this is Site Q," he told Reuters.

Many of the carved stone sculptures that began appearing three decades ago bear a strange snake-head glyph. They had so much in common that experts soon speculated that they had all been looted from one Mayan city.

But in recent years some archeologists had begun to suggest that Site Q was a myth and that the snake-headed carvings had really come from a number of different sites in the region.

Lopez said the newly found panel sculpture suggested that La Corona had been founded by leaders from Mexico's giant Maya kingdom Calakmul to help the empire in its epic wars with the Guatemala's Tikal, the Mayan world's second empire.

"It narrates the history of the two powers, Tikal and Calakmul," he said.

La Corona lies within the boundaries of the Laguna del Tigre national park, a dangerous part of Guatemala where scientists work alongside drug traffickers, clandestine loggers and illegal ranchers.

The site is being excavated by an international team of experts from Yale University, the National Geographic Society, among others.