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Aug 08, 2013 09:08 AM EDT

Mayan Sculpture Discovered in Guatemala Beneath a Buried Pyramid


Archaeologists on Wednesday discovered a beautiful, huge, well-preserved stucco wall sculpture with its colors intact in Guatemala under a buried Mayan pyramid. The stucco frieze, measuring 30 feet long and 6 feet tall, is painted red, with details in blue, yellow and green.

The Mayan carving was actually unearthed last month at the Holmul archaeological dig in Guatemala's northeastern Peten region.

"It is one of the most fabulous things I have ever seen," said Francisco Estrada-Belli, archaeologist 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 Mayan city site of Holmul.

The frieze, outside a buried tomb, shows three human figures wearing elaborate bird headdresses and jade jewels seated cross-legged over the head of a mountain spirit. According to Estrada-Belli, the wall sculpture might be portraying the crowning of a new ruler at the site around the year 590.

"We did not have the details of the ceremonies to install a new king as we have here, until now," Estrada-Belli said. 

The frieze is believed to belong to the snake kingdom and the pyramid of an important ruler.

The archaeologists also unearthed a skeleton of an adult male. His incisor and canine teeth were drilled and filled with jade beads and the body was surrounded with pots depicting the nine gods of the Mayan underworld as well as other icons.

"He was certainly a member of the ruling class," Estrada-Belli said.

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