Belize dig uncovers skeleton of Maya ruler

June 23, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Archaeologists digging in northern Belize have found what they think is a royal tomb from the early classic period of the Maya civilization, complete with the skeleton of a man bedecked in a jeweled necklace befitting the ruler of a minor city-state in the fifth century A.D.

Specialists welcomed the discovery as a potentially important source of knowledge of Maya royalty. Though tombs thought to be royal are found in Central America every few years, this one is unlike nearly all of the others because it has not been looted.

Members of an excavation team headed by Dr. Norman Hammond, an archaeologist at Boston University, made the discovery this spring when they broke through a stone burial chamber 10 feet underground at the site of the ancient Maya city of La Milpa. The ruins are near the border of Belize with Mexico and Guatemala.

In the tomb, Hammond said, lay the skeleton of a short man, little more than 5 feet 2 inches tall, 35 to 50 years old. He was adorned with an apple-green jade necklace with a pendant depicting the head of a vulture. In the Maya culture, the vulture was an icon that signified a lord or ruler.

Pub Date: 6/23/96

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