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Tomb of Maya Holy Snake Lord Found in Guatemala

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Oct 04, 2012 08:30 AM EDT
Lady K’abel
The carved alabaster vessel (shown from two sides) found in the burial chamber caused the archaeologists to conclude the tomb was that of Lady K’abel. (Photo : El Peru Waka Regional Archaelogical Project/ Washington University in St. Louis)

Archaeologists have discovered a seventh century tomb of a Maya queen in Guatemala.

The tomb belongs to the Maya Holy Snake Lord, Lady K'abel, one of the most powerful queens in her kingdom during the Classic Maya civilization.

A team of archaeologists led by David Freidel, co-director of the expedition from the Washington University in St. Louis, found the tomb during an excavation of the royal Maya city of El Perú-Waka' in northwestern Petén, Guatemala, based on artifacts suggesting that a higher-ranked queen is buried there. 

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Four glyphs carved into a white alabaster jar which was found in the burial chamber gave evidence that the tomb belonged to the queen, Lady K'abel. The jar is carved to make it look like a conch shell with the head of a mature woman with a lined face and a strand of hair in front of her ear, and her arm appearing from the opening.

Of the four glyphs carved in the jar, two of them is said to have titles of the person buried in the chamber. The title "Lady Waterlily-Hand" in the third hieroglyph represents the personal name of the owner and the title  "Lady Snake Lord" in the final glyph identifies the owner of the tomb is a princess of Calakmul - Lady K'abel.

Besides these evidences, experts also noticed ceramic vessels and stone slab carvings in the tomb giving more support to show it was the Maya Snake Lord's tomb. The discovery is very significant as Classic period is the only Maya civilization which has both archaeological and historical records, according to researchers.

"The Classic Maya civilization is the only 'classical' archaeological field in the New World - in the sense that like archaeology in Ancient Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia or China, there is both an archaeological material record and an historical record based on texts and images," Freidel said in a statement.

"The precise nature of the text and image information on the white stone jar and its tomb context constitute a remarkable and rare conjunction of these two kinds of records in the Maya area," he said.

Lady K'abel was one of the most powerful person and gained more respect as a ruler along with her husband K'inich Bahlam, for at least 20 years (672-692 AD). In fact she was more powerful than her husband as she was also holding the post of military governor of the Wak kingdom.

She was given the title of "Supreme Warrior," higher in authority than her husband, the king. The queen was buried in the location of a temple. The temple received much attention and admiration for decades even after the fall of the dynasty at El Perú.

For a complete report on the discovery, click here.

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