Excavations at a Mayan pyramid in Guatemala reveals an extraordinary frieze richly decorated with images of deities and rulers of the mysterious ancient civilisation.
PETEN, GUATEMALA (REUTERS) - A team of archaeologists in Guatemala have discovered a spectacular pre-Columbian stucco sculpture that features images of ancient deities and a Mayan ruler in the archaeological site of Holmul in Guatemala's lush north.
The well-preserved frieze measures eight metres (26 feet) long, two metres (six feet) high and was discovered after excavations at a Mayan pyramid that dates back to C.E. 600.
A dedicatory inscription at the base of the structure reveals the building over the frieze was commissioned by "Ajwosag Chan K'inich", revealing crucial new insights into the mysterious Mayan city of Holmul.
"It's important for the Holmul site because it's a part of Holmul's history that has not been revealed through glyphs nor the names of people. So, for the site and for the gaps that exist in the history of Mayan archaeology it's important because it contextualises Holmul within the entire geography of the Maya lowlands and its history," said the head of pre-Hispanic and colonial monuments for the Ministry for Culture and Sports, Ana Lucia Arrioyaye.
Escavations at the pyramid have also revealed 28 ceramic pots and a wooden mask which led archaeologists to believe the ancient ruler was a member of the Homul Mayan elite.
Arrioyaye believes further excavations may uncover even more secrets.
"It's part of a structure. This means that if the archaeological project goes on for another year, (archaeologists) will go deeper and will discover the bottom part. This is just the decorative part of the top of a structure. It is eight metres long (26 feet) by two metres high and represents a divine character, a governor and a god at the same time, and a little of the history of Holmul in the Mayan area," she added.
With some of its red, blue and yellow colours still in tact, the frieze depicts three main figures dressed with quetzal feathers and jade, sitting on top of the heads of mountain spirits.
Experts are hopeful the 30 glyphs on the frieze will shed light on a classical period of Maya rule and the rival rulers and kingdoms who thought for control of the Mayan lowlands.
"It's useless to find a frieze that doesn't have much iconographic information. For a change this has all the information of the deities, of the gods of the divine governors," said Arroyaya.
The Maya were among the great ancient civilisations of Mesoamerica, building cities with elaborate ceremonial centres and soaring stone pyramids from modern day Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Although it dominated the region for some 2,000 years, the ancient civilization largely abandoned its citizens for unknown reasons around 900 CE.
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