Archaeology News: Massive Maya Frieze Discovered in Buried Pyramid
Archaeologists in Guatemala have discovered a giant stucco frieze underneath a buried Mayan pyramid.
Guatemalan officials reported the find of the stucco wall sculpture, some 30 feet long and 6 feet tall, on Wednesday. The frieze features depictions of rulers and gods and still features its original colors. It is believed to be from around the year 590.
"It is one of the most fabulous things I have ever seen," says archaeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli of the Holmul Archaeological Project. "The preservation is wonderful because it was very carefully packed with dirt before they started building over it."
The frieze was found on one side of a staircase tomb inside a pyramid at the Maya city site of Holmul. It features "three men wearing bird headresses and jade jewels seated cross-legged over the head of a mountain spirit." The sculpture was painted red, with details of blue, yellow and green. It is likely the image of the crowning of a new ruler, according to Estrada-Belli.
"We did not have the details of the ceremonies to install a new king as we have here, until now," he says.
The unearthing of the frieze, which is believed to belong to the "snake kingdom," sheds light on conflicts between ancient Maya kingdoms, which included battles and human sacrifices.
The pyramid is also home to what is believed to be an important ruler. The body discovered in the pyramid had teeth filled with jade beads and was surrounded by pottery depicting the nine Maya gods of the Maya underworld and other icons.
"He was certainly a member of the ruling class," Estrada-Belli says.