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After the Queen, Tomb of Maya King Discovered in Guatemala

Oct 26, 2012 08:51 AM EDT

Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient grave of a Maya king, who is believed to have laid the foundation for the Maya civilization.

A team of researchers found the burial site of ancient ruler K'utz Chman at the Tak'alik Ab'aj ("standing stone" in the local Maya Language) site in Retalhuleu in western Guatemala.

Chman is said to have ruled during the Olmec civilization, some 2,000 years ago. Carbon dating method indicates that the tomb was built between 700 and 400 B.C. The discovery is expected to shed light on the birth of the Maya civilization. 

According to historians, Chman was the first leader to have introduced basic elements such as building pyramids and carving sculptures of royal families that paved way for the transition to the Maya civilization. "He was the big chief," archeologist Miguel Orrego told Reuters.

"The ruler who bridged the gaps between Olmec and Maya cultures and initiated the slow transition to Maya rule," he said.

The team could not find the king's bones, but they found some vessels, feminine figures and hundreds of small beads. The beads included Olmec blue jadeite and apple green jadeite in a position suggesting that they were sewn on a loincloth or leather that the king was wearing while he was buried, according to The Guatemala Times report.

Along with the jade jewels, archaeologists also found a necklace with a pendant carved in the shape of a vulture's head. This suggested that the tomb belonged to a ruler as the symbol indicated power and high economic status.

"The richness of the artifacts tells us he was an important and powerful religious leader," archeologist Christa Schieber told Reuters.

"He was very likely the person who began to make the changes in the system and transition into the Maya world," she said.

The discovery of the royal Maya tomb is the second in this month. Earlier, archaeologists discovered a seventh century tomb of a Maya queen, while excavating the Maya city of El Perú-Waka' in northwestern Petén, Guatemala.

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

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