Tiny camera looks inside Mayan tomb

Temple XX; the hole the camera dropped down; first glimpse of burial chamber; interior of the burial chamberNational Institute of Anthropology and History lowered a tiny videocamera into a 1,500-year-old Mayan tomb to reveal a riot of color painted on the walls and several funerary vessels in the southern Mexico city of Palenque. Although archaeologists have known the tomb was there since 1999, they haven’t been able to explore it because a later pyramid (called Temple XX) built on top was structurally unsound so any routing around under the foundations could have resulted in cave-ins or worse.

The team ran a two-inch camcorder through a 6-inch square hole on the roof of the vaulted tomb. It dropped 16.4 feet into the funerary chamber and immediately captured a vivid crimson paint on the walls. Further inside the camera revealed murals of nine human figures outlined in black against the blood-red background. The tomb also holds eleven vessels, probably once containing funerary offerings, and fragments of jade and shell that were probably part of the elaborate funeral attire.

There was no sarcophagus. Archaeologists think the body may have been placed directly on the floor.

Features of the funerary chamber, as declared by Dra Martha Cuevas, indicate that the osseous rests could correspond to a sacred ruler of Palenque, probably one of the beginners of the dynasty.

According to the temporality determined by INAH specialists for the mortuary precinct, the osseous remains could correspond to one of these ajau or lords: K’uk’ Bahlam I, first ruler of the city; a lord who’s name has not been translated but some authors call him Ch’away; Butz’ Aj Sak Chiik; Ahkal Mo’ Naab’ I; K’an Joy Chitam I, or Ahkal Mo’ Naab’ II, who was enthroned in 565 AD.

Archaeologist Martha Cuevas mentioned that although the precinct has not been excavated, it can be deduced parting from the type of ceramic and mural painting of the mortuary chamber that Temple 20 was built near 400-550 of the Common Era, at the Early Classic period.

University of Texas at Austin Mayan epigraphy expert David Stuart thinks the date and ancestral figures painted on the wall may be evidence that the tomb belonged to a famous female ruler of Palenque, Ix Yohl Ik’nal.

Here’s the videocamera footage taken inside the tomb. EDIT: Try this link if the embedded video doesn’t work.

13 thoughts on “Tiny camera looks inside Mayan tomb

  1. Considering the age of the tomb I’d say it’s more likely paint than blood since blood would have oxidized a LONG time ago

  2. Do you have any idea how many people feel alienated by being shut out of info because of where they live?

    I lost most of your latest newsletter because of these stupid restrictions.

  3. I didn’t realize the video wouldn’t play in other countries. I thought I was lucky just to be able to embed a BBC video because they’re usually incredibly stingy with that sort of thing. I’ve edited in a link to the video on the BBC site. Does that work for y’all?

  4. Do you have any idea how many people feel alienated by being shut out of info because of where they live?

    I do, actually, because there are so many wonderful history programs on British television that are available on their websites but can’t be viewed from the United States.

  5. This time I only got about half of it from the embedded version for some reason, but managed to see the whole thing from the link. Thank you for providing it.

  6. My pleasure. I am consistently annoyed at whatever intellectual property obsession keeps sources like Hulu and the BBC from allowing viewers in other countries. :blankstare:

  7. gee, nice post! it would be very interesting to go inside that pyramid and explore its secrets. ancient mayans are very intelligent people and their civilization is one of the most influential, i believe.

    nice post! :notworthy:

  8. As sad as that may be with the BBC thing being blacked out elsewhere, friggin Phillies games are blacked out this season in PA on regular cable stations! What friggin garbage! A sports franchise alienating the biggest source of their fans.

    I hate such intense greed. :angry:

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