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  1. 60: Royal Tomb Reveals Secrets of the Maya | Archaeology | DISCOVER ...","","","Linked to green sites","0 pop-ups","No downloads tested","More info...","",'green','60: Royal Tomb Reveals Secrets of the Maya | Archaeology | DISCOVER ...',1.0)" src="chrome://safe/content/green.gif" style="font-size: medium; height: 1em; position: absolute; z-index: 999;" border="0" hspace="5">

    ... of Guatemalan and American archaeologists were uncovering a separate Mayan ... century city of Cancuén tell the story of King Taj Chan Ahk, who filled the ...
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60: Royal Tomb Reveals Secrets of the Maya

by Zach Zorich

At a remote rain forest site in Guatemala last February, archaeologist David Lee happened upon the find of a lifetime: a royal tomb from the seventh century A.D. that suggests war was not strictly a man’s game in ancient Mayan society. Lee was working amid the ruins of the city of Waká when he lifted a stone and found himself looking into the burial chamber of a warrior queen with an intricately carved jade battle helmet. “There are only about a dozen tombs of royal women known in the Mayan world,” says David Freidel, leader of the archaeology team from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “She is the first to be found with a battle helmet, ever.” Stingray spines on the burial dais suggest this queen led traditionally male sacred ceremonies. Before battle, she would have pierced the spines through her genitals, sacrificing her blood to conjure war gods and strengthen her soldiers’ weapons.

Even as the soil was being brushed away from the queen’s bones, a team of Guatemalan and American archaeologists were uncovering a separate Mayan kingdom ruled through economic power rather than military might. Two stone carvings at the eighth-century city of Cancuén tell the story of King Taj Chan Ahk, who filled the royal coffers from trade in jade, obsidian, and quetzal feathers. Through shrewd deals and strategic marriages, he controlled neighboring kingdoms without sending a single warrior to die. In the meantime, Taj Chan Ahk emerged as the Donald Trump of his day; most of the city’s buildings, including an elaborate royal palace, were built during his reign. The peace and prosperity were short lived. By A.D. 810, after Taj Chan Ahk’s death, Cancuén’s alliances had dissolved, and the government collapsed, foreshadowing the demise of classic Mayan royalty.


 

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  1. Archaeologists Unearth Ancient Maya Masterpieces While Excavating A ...","","","1.8 e-mails/week","Linked to green sites","0 pop-ups","More info...","",'green','Archaeologists Unearth Ancient Maya Masterpieces While Excavating A ...',1.0)" src="chrome://safe/content/green.gif" style="font-size: medium; height: 1em; position: absolute; z-index: 999;" border="0" hspace="5">

    ... by Taj Chan Ahk, one of the last great Maya rulers, so the artifacts discovered ... Mayan cities located far to the south in the jungles of southern Mexico and ...
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  2. 60: Royal Tomb Reveals Secrets of the Maya | Archaeology | DISCOVER ...","","","Linked to green sites","0 pop-ups","No downloads tested","More info...","",'green','60: Royal Tomb Reveals Secrets of the Maya | Archaeology | DISCOVER ...',1.0)" src="chrome://safe/content/green.gif" style="font-size: medium; height: 1em; position: absolute; z-index: 999;" border="0" hspace="5">

    ... of Guatemalan and American archaeologists were uncovering a separate Mayan ... century city of Cancuén tell the story of King Taj Chan Ahk, who filled the ...
    discovermagazine.com/2005/jan/royal-tomb - 34k - Cached
  3. The New York Times > Science > Guatemalan Jungles Yield a Wealth of ...","","","5 green downloads","No e-mail received","Linked to green sites","More info...","",'green','The New York Times > Science > Guatemalan Jungles Yield a Wealth of ...',1.0)" src="chrome://safe/content/green.gif" style="font-size: medium; height: 1em; position: absolute; z-index: 999;" border="0" hspace="5">

    ... the great eighth-century king, Taj Chan Ahk, engaged in a ceremonial game with visiting rulers. ... a Guatemalan expert in Mayan script, called the panel " ...
    nytimes.com/2004/05/11/science/11MAYA.html?ei=5007&... - 57k
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    The rescue of the 600-pound artifact gives researchers vital ... altar, said in a statement that "Taj Chan Ahk was the greatest in Cancuen's long ...
    www.nctimes.com/articles/2003/10/30/backpage/10_29_0320_51_11.txt - 145k - Cached


 
  1. Dramatic rescue snatches back Mayan altar - 30 October 2003 - New Scientist","","","< class="'sastyle_link_moreinfo'" style="'white-space:nowrap;color:#012D6F;padding-right:0.3em;font-weight:normal'" href="'http://www.siteadvisor.com/sites/newscientist.com?ref=" client_ver="FF_26.5_6176&locale=" premium="false&aff_id=" target="_blank">More info...","",'green','Dramatic rescue snatches back Mayan altar - 30 October 2003 - New Scientist',1.0)" src="chrome://safe/content/green.gif" style="font-size: medium; height: 1em; position: absolute; z-index: 999;" border="0" hspace="5">

    ... that symbolised an alliance between Taj Chan Ahk, the last and greatest in ... later, undercover officials tracked down a photo of the altar and arrested a ...
    www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn4330 - 43k - Cached
  2. Archaeologist Arthur Demarest had been training local Maya villagers to be tour guides for the ancient site at Cancuén (Image: Andrew Demarest)
    Archaeologist Arthur Demarest had been training local Maya villagers to be tour guides for the ancient site at Cancuén (Image: Andrew Demarest)
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Maya Masterpiece in Guatemala

Archaeologists Uncover Maya "Masterpiece" in Guatemala

Sean Markey
National Geographic News
April 23, 2004

Archaeologists working deep in Guatemala's rain forest under the protection of armed guards say they have unearthed one of the greatest Maya art masterpieces ever found.

The artifact—a 100-pound (45-kilogram) stone panel carved with images and hieroglyphics—depicts Taj Chan Ahk, the mighty 8th-century king of the ancient Maya city-state of Cancuen.

The panel was excavated in perfect condition from a royal ball court. Exquisitely carved in precise high relief, the 80-centimeter-wide (31.5-inch) stone depicts the Maya king seated on an earth symbol and throne with a jaguar skin, installing subordinate rulers in the nearby city-state of Machaquila.

Researchers say the panel's text confirms Ahk's status as one of the last, great kings of classic Maya civilization who controlled a vast territory in the Petén rain forest. Ahk grew and held his power through savvy politics and economic clout, rather than war, at a time when most other great Maya city-states were in their final decline, experts say.

"This panel is incredibly important," Arthur Demarest, a Vanderbilt University archaeologist and excavation co-leader, said in a satellite telephone interview from the dig site. "Every once in a while you have a beautiful, spectacular piece of art that is also profoundly historically important."

"It is … the best piece of Maya art that has ever been found in an excavated context," he added. "It looks like it was made yesterday."

Death Threats

In a related development that sounds ripped from the pages of an Indiana Jones script, Demarest said he has received a number of death threats tied to an upcoming trial related to the looting of a 1,200-year-old stone altar from Cancuén in 2001.

Demarest helped undercover agents from the Guatemalan S.I.C. (the nation's equivalent to the F.B.I.) arrest the alleged thieves and recover the altar last October. The defendants' trial is set to begin May 20.

Last week, armed gunmen fired on the archaeologist's rain forest dig site. The gunmen fled after Demarest's security guards returned fire and gave chase. The archaeologist has hired six bodyguards, some Israeli-trained.

Second Monument

Meanwhile in a second discovery in Cancuén, archaeologists say they have uncovered a 500-pound (230-kilogram) stone altar from the stucco surface of the thousand-year-old royal ball court, the same court used by Taj Chan Ahk.

The discovery marks the first time researchers have excavated a stone altar from a Maya ball court in its original archaeological context. Such a find "has never happened in Maya archaeology," Demarest said. "These things have always turned up in [private] collections. They've always been looted."

The elaborately carved altar is the third, and final, marker from the royal ball court recovered over the past century. The first was found in 1905. The second marker is the same stolen by looters in 2001. The altars were used as goal posts.

All three depict Taj Chan Ahk in full royal regalia playing against the visiting ruler of a vassal state. Ahk used the symbolic games as political "photo ops" to mark treaties and stage-manage his grip on power, Demarest said.

The two new stone monuments will help archaeologists better understand the last 30 years of Maya civilization and its moment of collapse, experts say.

Cancuén Excavation

Five years ago little was known about Cancuén, an ancient port city on the Pasión River whose name means "Place of the Serpents."

The city-state's status as an economic powerhouse of the Maya empire started to emerge in 1999, when Demarest and a team of experts from Vanderbilt University (sponsored in part by the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration) and the Guatemalan Ministry of Culture began to explore the city's ruins.

Their excavations soon uncovered the largest palace of the ancient Maya world found to date. The palace, constructed primarily in A.D. 770 during the reign of Taj Chan Ahk, sprawled over nearly a quarter-million square feet (23,000 square meters) and included 200 rooms with vaulted ceilings.

The royal residence was a "power-creating machine" cleverly laid out to inspire awe in visiting warrior-kings. The palace was used to convert rivals into vassals, Demarest said. "There were 11 courtyards. By the time you got to the foot of the king, you were ready to do anything for him," he said.

Under Taj Chan Ahk and earlier kings, Cancuén served as a principal gateway for trade between city-states of the volcanic southern highlands of Central America and the Petén rain forest lowlands to the north.

Strategically located on the Pasión River, the city-state brokered trade in the precious commodities of obsidian, jade, seashells, and stingray spines. Royal craftsmen used the materials to fashion intricate scepters, headdresses, pendants, and necklaces that were used by Maya kings to display and maintain their power.

Enduring Mystery

Classic Maya civilization peaked between A.D. 250 and 900, a period six times longer than the reign of ancient Rome. During that time, the Maya built more cities than ancient Egypt.

What caused Maya civilization to collapse, however, remains a mystery. Experts believe a range of factors, from internecine warfare to severe drought, may have triggered the fall. But the true cause remains a mystery.



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