Maya royal tomb discovered in Belize points to little-known ‘snake dynasty’

Maya Royal Tomb Found In Belize Points To Little-Known 'Snake Dynasty'-1

Archaeologists have recently discovered what seems to be one of the largest royal Maya tombs found so far. Unearthed in Belize, the ancient tomb housed animal bone fragments, several pieces of obsidian as well as a male skeleton. According to the researchers, hieroglyphs along the walls of the royal tomb could help uncover valuable information about the history of the so-called ‘snake dynasty’.

Located below the stairway of a temple, the ancient tomb was found in the archaeological site of Xunantunich, a region in the western part of Belize that once served as a major ceremonial center of the Maya civilization. Speaking about the incredible discovery, Jaime Awe, a researcher from the Northern Arizona University and the team’s leader, said:

In other words, it appears that the temple was purposely erected for the primary purpose of enclosing the tomb. Except for a very few rare cases, this is not very typical in ancient Maya architecture.

Maya Royal Tomb Found In Belize Points To Little-Known 'Snake Dynasty'-3

Analysis of the site has revealed that the tomb was originally constructed for a young muscular man, aged somewhere between 20 to 30 years. Based on their observations, the archaeologists point out that the corpse might have belonged to a person of some importance. In addition to the skeleton, the team uncovered bone fragments of different animals, including a deer and a jaguar.

Among the artifacts found at the site were jade beads that were likely once part of a necklace, as many as 13 blades fashioned from obsidian and 36 ceramic vessels. Towards one corner of the royal tomb, the researchers also came across two “offering caches”, comprising 28 figurines made of flint as well as 9 obsidian knives.

The figurines, according to the team, contained a variety of symbols including animal figures. Measuring over 4.5 meter (around 14.7 feet) in length and 2.4 meters (approx. 7.9 feet) in breadth, the newly-found tomb is believed to be one of the biggest Maya royal tombs ever discovered.  Awe added:

What’s amazing about the discovery of this tomb is that we know that archaeologists have been working at Xunantunich since the 1890s. That’s more than a century of continuous archaeological work at the site. And, never before have we found a tomb. Well, this tomb is also remarkable in other ways, it is one of the largest burial chambers we have ever found.

While not much is currently known about the buried person, the archaeologists believe that the hieroglyphic panels inscribed along the royal tomb’s walls could provide valuable insights regarding the historical period. The hieroglyphs, for instance, appear to be related to the Maya ‘snake dynasty’, which reigned nearly 1,300 years ago.

Maya Royal Tomb Found In Belize Points To Little-Known 'Snake Dynasty'-2

As explained by the researchers, the family was called so because of the snake-head emblem that they used as their symbol.  According to Christophe Helmke, an epigrapher from the University of Copenhagen, the hieroglyphic panels quite possibly talk of Lord K’an II, who ruled the ancient city of Caracol situated about 41 km (or 26 mi) from the tomb. However, it is also possible that the inscriptions deal with Waxaklajuun Ubaah K’an, another ruler of the snake dynasty who was alive during 635 AD.

A third possibility could be that there were two princes, both brothers, who were fighting for the throne. Talking about the find, which was recently published in the Journal of Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute, Helmke went on to say:

This means that there were two contenders to the throne, both carrying the same dynastic title, which appears to have been read Kanu’l Ajaw, ‘King of the place where snakes abound.

Via: The Guardian

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