Archive for June 24th, 2011

Tiny camera looks inside Mayan tomb

Friday, June 24th, 2011

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.

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