Tomb of Maya queen K’abel discovered in Guatemala
2012-10-05 0:00

By Jessica Daues | Washington University St. Louis

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 carved alabaster vessel (shown from two sides) 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.


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