Rare Maya panels found in Guatemala

Posted By: Marty

Rare Maya panels found in Guatemala - 03/12/09 02:27 PM

GUATEMALA CITY - Archeologists have uncovered carved stucco panels depicting cosmic monsters, gods and serpents in Guatemala's northern jungle that are the oldest known depictions of a famous Mayan creation myth.
The newly discovered panels, both 26 feet long and stacked on top of each other, were created around 300 BC and show scenes from the core Mayan mythology, the Popol Vuh.
It took investigators three months to uncover the carvings while excavating El Mirador, the biggest ancient Mayan city in the world, the site's head researcher, Richard Hansen, said on Wednesday.
The Maya built soaring temples and elaborate palaces in Central America and southern Mexico, dominating the region for some 2,000 years, before mysteriously abandoning their cities around 900 AD.
The El Mirador basin was deserted much earlier with the large urban population leaving a complex network of roads and waterways and a massive pyramid now covered under thick vegetation.
The earliest written version of the Popol Vuh was discovered in the early 1700s by a Spanish colonial priest and the panels are the first known sculptural depictions of the main characters in the myth -- two hero twins, Hansen said.
"This is pre-Christian, it has tremendous antiquity and shows again the remarkable resilience of an ideology that's existed for thousands of years," Hansen, an Idaho State University archeologist who has worked at El Mirador for over a decade, said.
On one panel, the twins are depicted surrounded by cosmic monsters and above them is a bird deity with outstretched wings. On the other, there is a Mayan corn god framed by an undulating serpent, said Hansen who worked as a consultant for Mel Gibson's 2006 movie about the Maya, "Apocalypto."
Spread over more than 500,000 acres (2,000 square km), El Mirador is three times the size of Guatemala's famous Tikal ruins, a popular tourist destination.
But El Mirador's conservation is threatened by drug traffickers who use the area to ship cocaine and heroin across the porous border with Mexico, deforestation by locals, looters who steal ancient artifacts to sell on the black market and wild animal poachers.
Last year, President Alvaro Colom announced the creation of a massive park in the dense jungle of northern Guatemala's PetÚn region, which would encompass both El Mirador and the already excavated Tikal.
The plan includes the construction by 2020 of a silent, propane powered train to carry thousands of tourists to the ruins, currently only accessible by helicopter or a two-day hike through the jungle.
Posted By: sweetjane

Re: Rare Maya panels found in Guatemala - 03/13/09 02:53 PM

wow, 300 BC - this is very cool. thanks for the post.
Posted By: Danny2

Re: Rare Maya panels found in Guatemala - 03/28/09 09:05 PM

Amazing, I wonder where the Maya people went and how many are still around.
Posted By: collyk

Re: Rare Maya panels found in Guatemala - 03/28/09 09:15 PM

There are around 8 million Maya people speaking over 30 languages still alive in Central America. Their ancient cities were indeed great civilisations, which for some reason (there are lots of theories but none accepted as the 'correct' theory although many modern theorists believe that they may have over used their lands and resources) collapsed, but the Maya people still exist.

There are vibrant Maya (primarily Kekchi and Mopan) communities, mainly in the south of Belize but many of the people you meet in Belize will have Maya ancestors.

It was interesting to read in 'How to Cook a Tapir- A Memoir of Belize' that Maya villagers in Punta Gorda in the 1960's had myths and stories to explain artifacts found that had, in fact, been made by their ancestors. They were unaware of this fact and had other explanations for the appearance of relics. For example, that old arrowheads were made by lightning.

I'm sure that has changed now, but access to education is still difficult for many Maya people.
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