Une tombe maya découverte à Xunantunich au Belize

Une équipe d’archéologues de l’université d’Arizona a récemment annoncé la découverte d’une tombe maya à Xunantunich au Belize. Sis sur les rives du Río Mopan, Xunantunich est célèbre pour sa structure nommée Castillo, la plus élevée du site et pour son art lapidaire.

Maya 'snake dynasty tomb' discovered, with human body, treasure and hieroglyphs inside

Archaeologists have discovered a royal tomb belonging to a ‘snake dynasty’ more than a thousand years old, containing treasure, hieroglyphs and a human body.

The discovery was unearthed at the ruins of Xunantunich, an ancient city which was once home to the Mayan civilisation beginning around 750 BC until political collapse saw cities abandoned in ninth century AD. The Maya peoples developed the Mesoamerican civilisation and were renowned for their fully develope hieroglyphic script, as well as ornate architecture.

It is thought that the tomb may be the largest of its kind to be found in the ruins. Most strikingly, it appears the tomb is custom-built, rather than attached to an existing structure, a rarity for the period.

Archaeologist Jamie Awe told The Guardian: “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.”

The tomb was found in the central stairway of a large structure.

The human body has been described by Awe as athletic and “quite muscular”. It will now be subject to forensic analysis as experts seek to establish more information including the man’s age and cause of death.

The archaeologists also found 36 ceramic vessels, what appears to be a necklace with jade beads, 13 obsidian blades and the bones of deer and jaguar,International Business Times reports.

The ‘snake dynasty’ is known for the snake-head emblem associated with its house and gained prominence in the seventh century following a string of conquests.

It is hoped the discovery will advance greater understanding of the dynasty and Mayan civilisation.

NAU Archaeologist Jaime Awe Describes ‘Unbelievable’ Find in Belize

Archeologists made a major discovery in Belize this summer: they uncovered one of the largest Mayan tombs ever found, along with two hieroglyphic panels. Northern Arizona University professor Jaime Awe led the expedition. From the Arizona Science Desk, Melissa Sevigny spoke with Awe about the discovery.

Melissa Sevigny: So you made some big findings in Belize this summer. Can you talk about that? 

There’s a site in Western Belize known as Xunantunich. That site has been investigated since the turn of the 19th century, so back in 1890s. Just a large number of people have worked there. Nobody had ever found a burial of an important elite ruler of the site.

This year we decided to excavate this one smaller temple, and bingo, we hit this huge tomb, in fact one of the largest tombs ever discovered in the country of Belize.

This thing was so massive we had about six people excavating inside this burial chamber at the same time. We had people excavating the skeletal remains, we had some people excavating the animal remains in there, because there was some of that, and other people exposing some of the artifacts.

What kind of artifacts did you find?

Inside this tomb we found this adult male individual somewhere between 20 and 30 years old and really robust; this guy was in really good shape.

He had about 30 some ceramic vessels—that’s a large number of pots—inside this tomb. He had a little jade necklace, obsidian blades, a bone pin—because sometimes they use these pins to hold up their long hair—and the animal remains look like they’re from jaguar and deer. 

Now, I understand you also found two panels at the site that used to be part of a hieroglyphic staircase. And these panels have told you a lot about Mayan history.

I think in many respects the information provided by these panels far outweighed the discovery we made in the tomb. So for a long time we didn’t know when the hieroglyphic stair had been commissioned. We knew who and where. Well, our panels now tell us that the hieroglyphic stair was actually commissioned and produced in 642 AD.

So, if you’re in the business about learning about ancient Maya civilization and some of the political intrigue, the discovery of these panels is just an incredible major contribution. Fantastic!  

How common are tombs and tablets like this? How often are these types of discoveries made?

I have colleagues who have been working in Maya archeology for entire careers and have never found any monuments with hieroglyphic inscriptions or have ever discovered any kind of important tombs. So to say this is an unbelievable opportunity, experience, is an understatement.

Jaime Awe directs the Belize Valley Archaeological Reconnaissance Project. This is the second year he’s brought NAU students to Belize; so far, more than 40 students have gone on the digs.