GUATEMALA CITY – The tomb of a ruler of the vanished Mayan city of El Zotz has been discovered in a jungle in Guatemala.
Archaeologists led by Stephen Houston of BrownUniversity, in the U.S. state of Rhode Island, and Edwin Roman of Guatemala’s San CarlosUniversity excavated a ruin in the northern province of Peten, and found a tomb believed to be that of Chak, ruler of El Zotz, an ancient Mayan city.
Also found in Chak’s tomb, were the remains of six children, aged between 1 to 5, who “were probably sacrificed” in honor of the ruler, Houston said.
Jade and wood carvings, textiles, mosaic masks and pieces of belts worn in ritual dances were also found.
El Zotz, whose name comes from the Mayan word for “bat,” reached its zenith during the classic period of the Mayan civilization between 300-600 A.D.
Chak’s tomb, which dates back to 350-400 A.D., as well as the objects found inside, had remained “almost intact” thanks to layers of mud placed over it to protect it, Houston said.
The archaeologists believe the ruler was between 50 and 60 when he died and that his death was from natural causes. Judging by the state of his bones, Chak probably suffered from an ailment of the joints.
This is the first time that evidence has been found in Mayan tombs of child sacrifices in honor of kings and rulers.
“The discovery of this tomb brings to light an unexpected source of Mayan art along with information about their funeral rites that might seem rather grisly,” Roman said.