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Archaeologists in Guatemala have discovered the tomb of Lady K’abel, a seventh-century Maya Holy Snake Lord considered one of the great queens of Classic Maya civilization.

The tomb was discovered during excavations of the royal Maya city of El Perú-Waka’ in northwestern Petén, Guatemala, by a team of archaeologists led by Washington University in St. Louis’ David Freidel, co-director of the expedition. A small, carved alabaster jar found in the burial chamber caused the archaeologists to conclude the tomb was that of Lady K’abel. The white jar is carved as a conch shell, with a head and arm of an aged woman emerging from the opening.

The depiction of the woman, mature with a lined face and a strand of hair in front of her ear, and four glyphs carved into the jar, point to the jar as belonging to K’abel.

Based on this and other evidence, including ceramic vessels found in the tomb and stela (large stone slab) carvings on the outside, the tomb is likely that of K’abel, says Freidel, PhD, professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences and Maya scholar. Freidel says the discovery is significant not only because the tomb is that of a notable historical figure in Maya history, but also because the newly uncovered tomb is a rare situation in which Maya archaeological and historical records meet.

“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 says.

WUSTL archaeologist David Freidel, PhD, was part of a team that discovered the tomb of Lady K’abel, a seventh-century Maya Holy Snake Lord considered one of the great queens of Classic Maya civilization. “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.”

The discovery of the tomb of the great queen was “serendipitous, to put it mildly,” Freidel says. The team at El Perú-Waka’ has focused on uncovering and studying “ritually-charged” features such as shrines, altars and dedicatory offerings rather than on locating burial locations of particular individuals. “In retrospect, it makes a lot of sense that the people of Waka’ buried her in this particularly prominent place in their city,” Freidel says.

Olivia Navarro-Farr, PhD, assistant professor of anthropology at the College of Wooster in Ohio, originally began excavating the locale while still a doctoral student of Freidel’s. Continuing to investigate this area this season was of major interest to both she and Freidel because it had been the location of a temple that received much reverence and ritual attention for generations after the fall of the dynasty at El Perú. With the discovery, archaeologists now understand the likely reason why the temple was so revered: K’abel was buried there, Freidel says.

K’abel, considered the greatest ruler of the Late Classic period, ruled with her husband, K’inich Bahlam, for at least 20 years (672-692 AD), Freidel says. She was the military governor of the Wak kingdom for her family, the imperial house of the Snake King, and she carried the title “Kaloomte’,” translated to “Supreme Warrior,” higher in authority than her husband, the king. K’abel also is famous for her portrayal on the famous Maya stela, Stela 34 of El Perú, now in the Cleveland Art Museum.

El Perú-Waka’, located approximately 75 km west of the famous city of Tikal, is an ancient Maya city in northwestern Petén, Guatemala. It was part of Classic Maya civilization (200-900 AD) in the southern lowlands and consists of nearly a square kilometer of plazas, palaces, temple pyramids and residences surrounded by many square kilometers of dispersed residences and temples.

This discovery was made under the auspices of the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Guatemala. The El Perú-Waka’ project is sponsored by the Foundation for the Cultural and Natural Patrimony of Guatemala
 

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A shaft tomb containing skeletal remains along with a rich assemblage of grave goods, has been discovered in a later cemetery in the state of Colima, Mexico by researchers at the National Institute of Anthropology and History


 

Archaeologist Marco Zavaleta Lucido explained, shaft tombs such as this are targeted by looters because of the beauty of the materials deposited within them. The excavators have produced a detailed record of this burial area which unusually, was found intact.

Shaman sculpture

The sculpture of a long faced shaman holding a blowpipe is the guardian of the shaft tomb sealed up more than 1500 years ago.

In April 2013 archaeologists uncovered and began excavating a cemetery that contained the remains of 35 adults, of both male and females, as well as three infants, all within stone cists dating to what is called the Colima phase, AD400 to 600. Near these burials Marco Zavaleta located a sealed vertical shaft of 1.50 metres square, which represented the entrance to the tomb, dating to a slightly earlier date (AD0-500).
 

Within this probably family tomb chamber they found the skeletal remains of one or two individuals placed deliberately on top of another older internment. Once the archaeologists had excavated to floor level, they found another individual lying on its back.

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A second culturally significant ancient tomb was accidentally uncovered in Medellin, Colombia last Friday.

Municipal workers uncovered the indigenous tomb while repairing water lines in Colombia’s second largest city.  The discovery was made in the residential neighbor of La Colinita de Guayabal according to El Colombiano.

The tomb held numerous ornate burial gifts, including gold jewelry and ceramics, leading archaeologist to believe the ancient tomb belonged to the ‘Aburraes” indigenous tribe.  Medellin sits in a narrow valley originally inhabited by the Aburraes Indians.  The Aburra Valley was home to the indigenous tribe from 940-to-1540 A.D.

The tribe lived from weaving, goldsmithing and agriculture.  The name “Aburrá” comes from the ancient language spoken by the Aburreans before the Spanish arrived. The tribe became almost extinct when the Spanish brought disease and forced them into hard labor.

Thus far over ten weaving wheels, several gold nose-ring, ceramics, and coal have been unearthed.  Colombia’s culture ministry has confirmed they will excavate the site further and will work with archaeologists from the University of Paris.

The first ancient tomb found accidentally in Medellin was uncovered in September by transit workers. In that instance the tomb is thought to be pre-Columbian occupied during the 12th and 17th centuries by ancient tribes people. 
 

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Tuesday, 05 November 2013 20:52

Mummy's Colorful Collar Found in Egyptian Tomb

A collar with "almost pristine" colors that would have been worn by a mummy has been discovered in small pieces in an Egyptian tomb in Thebes and put back together again.

People in ancient Egypt wore collars called "wesekhs" made of beads when they were alive. This painted collar is made of a different type of material called cartonnage (a plastered material) and was meant to be worn by a mummy after death. A clay seal found near the collar suggests that it was worn by the mummy of a wealthy undertaker.

Dating back around 2,300 years ago and found in modern-day Luxor, the collar is painted in a vivid array of colors, designs and images that show elements of ancient Egyptian religion. The god Horus is signified by two falcons wearing red sun-disk crowns on the top corners, while at top center is a human-headed bird (called a "Ba" bird) that represents, in essence, the immortal soul of the deceased mummy.

Additionally, in the center of the design, there is a drawing of a golden shrine with two goddesses, possibly the sisters Isis and Nephthys, facing a deity in the center that may be the jackal-headed Anubis. The collar is about 8.7 inches (22 centimeters) high (not including the falcons) and about 16.5 inches (42 cm) in width. Near the bottom of the collar lotus blossoms are shown flourishing.

Complex tomb

The tomb that it was found in is a complex place. Originally it was built more than 3,300 years ago for a butler named Parennefer who served the pharaoh Akhenaten. Then, sometime later, an official named Amenemopet excavated his own tomb into part of the butler's courtyard. As the centuries went on more individuals (the precise number is unknown) were buried at the site, one of them being interred around 2,300 years ago with this colorful collar.

The re-use of tombs was a common practice in Thebes. "I guess it was much more economical to use these old derelict tombs than to excavate out new tombs at that time," Susan Redford, of Penn State University, told LiveScience in an interview. She and her team found hundreds of cartonnage fragments in excavations at the site, the fragments that made up this collar being discovered in 2000 and 2002. The team's artist, Rupert Nesbitt, carefully put the collar back together again, along with several other coverings that belong to different mummies.

"These pieces could range from about palm-sized to dime-sized," Redford said. "It was like a giant jigsaw puzzle," added Redford, who detailed the collar discovery in a paper in "Archaeological Research in the Valley of the Kings & Ancient Thebes: Papers Presented in Honor of Richard H. Wilkinson" (University of Arizona Egyptian Expedition, 2013). [See Photos of Egypt's Valley of the Kings]

Archaeologists cannot say for sure whom this collar belonged to. In addition to being re-used multiple times the tomb site has been robbed in both ancient and modern times and, until recently, was even used to hold dead animals.

Egyptian tombs and temples tended to be very colorful places and the collar reflects that, Redford said.

An undertaker's collar?

The mummy who wore this collar is now gone or otherwise part of the various humans remains found in the tomb. However, an inscription written in a mud-clay seal was found near the fragments of the collar.

The seal would have held together the string or binding of a papyrus scroll. While the scroll itself is mostly destroyed, the inscription from the seal says that it is for a man named "Padihorwer," reading (in translation) that he was "privy to the mysteries and god's sealer, 'embalmer,' scribe, prophet of the 'desert' (necropolis) of Qus," which is located north of Thebes.

An ancient archival record also survives, telling of "a man of Qus" being buried at Thebes in the same period that the collar has been dated to, Redford said.  

Padihorwer was basically an undertaker, a profession that could bring some level of wealth. "He's a little higher than just an ordinary necropolis worker," she said, noting that these ancient undertakers arranged for embalming and burial, were paid by families and generally ran their affairs like a business. "We think that they had a guild of sorts," she said, "it was a business just like undertakers are today."

If this collar, with its elaborate decorations, was worn by Padihorwer, it would suggest that his business prospered and that he was a relatively wealthy undertaker at the time he was buried. 


 

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Rich warrior grave dating from the turn of the 1st and 2nd century AD is one of the most interesting finds archaeologists discovered during excavations in the Lubusz group cemetery from the Roman period in Czelin (Zachodniopomorskie).

Bartłomiej Rogalski from the National Museum in Szczecin, who led the recently completed study, told PAP that the warrior's burial is a rare example of a man’s tomb with full armament from the Roman period in the Lower Oder region.

According to Rogalski, the tomb contained a single-edged sword with a set of scabbard clips, a spearhead, shield parts and a pair of ornamental bronze cast clasps for Prussian series garments. "An interesting object from the tomb is a fire striker, which is evidence of the strong Scandinavian influence on the Oder" - said Rogalski. Typically, archaeologists have found warrior tombs with spear and shield in Czelin.

This year, 18 objects were discovered during the excavations, including four pit graves and three crematory graves, as well as hearths, pits and paving stones, which - according to archaeologists - should be associated with the operation of the cemetery. The researchers speculate that the latter were connected with various rites and cremation of corpses.

According to Rogalski, the vast majority of sites found in Czelin belonged to the Lubusz group, which from the 1st to the 3rd century AD occupied Lower Oder region, Wkra Land, Pyrzyce Land and Mysliborskie Lakes. Lubusz group is poorly explored archaeologically and its characteristics still await clear definition.

Since 2004, the cemetery has provided a rich collection of weapons from the Roman period. Rogalski said that archaeologist found five swords, including three double-edged swords (one imported Roman gladius), and two single-edged swords, probably made by local blacksmiths. They also found various shield pieces and ornamented spearheads probably derived from the tradition of the Przeworsk culture that occupied then areas of Wielkopolska and Silesia.

Also noteworthy are numerous fibulae, brooches used to fasten robes, made of bronze and iron, intricately crafted buckles and belt fittings, and riding accessories, such as spurs associated with the Przeworsk culture or Scandinavian influence, said Rogalski .

Apart from the objects from the Roman period at the site in Czelin archaeologists also found a skeletal grave and ceramics, which should be associated with the Neolithic Corded Ware culture. This year, they found an elaborately made flint arrowhead dating from the beginning of the second thousand BC.

An open-air museum dedicated to the cemetery is open in Czelin. Visitors can see a reconstruction of a warrior's grave with equipment and a cremation pyre with a warrior lying on top.


 

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