Tomb of Influential Early Mayan Ruler Discovered in Guatemala
By Ligia María
A jade pendant of a vulture discovered at the Maya site of Tak’alik Ab’aj.
(Photo courtesy Tak’alik Ab’aj Archaeological Project/Associated Press)
K’utz Chman, a priest, is said to have ruled around 700 B.C. in Retalhuleu in southwestern Guatemala. In his tomb archaeologists found ceramic pots and dolls and jade jewels including one jade necklace carved in the shape of a vulture’s head, which is a symbol that represented power and wealth in the Mayan culture. It was given to respected elder men.
“The richness of the artifacts tells us he was an important and powerful religious leader,” archaeologist Christa Schieber, coordinator of the project at the Tak’alik Ab’aj dig site, told Reuters. “He was very likely the person who began to make the changes in the system and transition into the Mayan world.”
Archaeologist Miguel Orrego of the Guatemalan Instituto de Antropologia e Historia told Reuters that Chman was “the ruler who bridged the gap between Olmec and Maya cultures and initiated the slow transition to Maya rule.”
The Maya empire began to thrive around 400 B.C. when the Olmec empire was declining.
Some of the cultural changes Chman was responsible for included switching the building style from square structures to pyramids and commissioning the carving of royal family sculptures, things that came to define Mayan culture.
Though archaeologists did not find any human remains in the tomb, carbon dating of artifacts and other organic materials conclude that it was built between 770 B.C. and 510 B.C., reported the Los Angeles Times.