The jade-encrusted tomb of a Maya king has been unearthed in northern Honduras by road diggers near the Copán archaeological park.
The remains of a two-year-old child, painted red, and a noblewoman were beside the monarch. "Both were sacrificed in honor of the king," said Seiichi Nakamura, the archaeologist who announced the discovery.
Nakamura, a Japanese scientist who has led the conservation program at the Maya site for eight years, said the sixth-century remains must have been the center point of a ritual plaza. Eight large chests of offerings found near the bodies were heaped with fine-tooled jade figurines, engraved seashells and ceramic flasks. The scientists have yet to identify which of Copán's 16 kings the tomb belongs to.
Copán, among the most important tourist centres in Honduras, is preserved in a rain forest parkland seven miles (five kilometers) from the Guatemalan border and 120 miles (190 kilometers) west of the capital, Tegucigalpa.
The monumental riverside city in the Valley of Copán has been excavated since 1830, and the quality of sculpture is unsurpassed.
Between A.D. 650 and 820, the southernmost city in the Maya Empire, which once extended into Mexico, Belize, El Salvador and Guatemala, had a population of 20,000. The abrupt end of the civilization still mystifies scholars.
(C) 2001 The IndependentLondon