Ancient Maya Royal Tomb Discovered in Guatemala

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E. Wyllys Andrews V is a Maya scholar and director of the Middle American Research Institute at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Although he is not directly familiar with the discovery, he said it "sounds exciting."

"Any time you find something that early, you may well be finding something that sheds light on the early days or founding of the dynasty," he said.

Further excavations and research at the tomb, he adds, may reveal exactly who is inside.

Norman Hammond heads the archaeology department at Boston University in Massachusetts.

He says that if this is indeed the tomb of the founder of Waka', it pushes back evidence for royal burials of dynasty founders to the Maya Preclassic period, which scholars date at between 2000 B.C. to A.D. 250.

(Related photos: "Maya Gods and Kings.")

"It fits in well with the rapidly increasing evidence for a high level of economic, social, and political complexity in Preclassic Maya society," he said, "something which not too many years ago was thought to be nearly at the level of peasant villages or small towns."

The royal tomb is the second found at the site. In the spring of 2004 Freidel and his colleagues discovered a queen's tomb more than 1,200 years old and dated to the Late Classic period of Maya civilization.

(Related news: "Ancient Portrait of Maya Woman Found—Who Was She?")

On Tuesday a different team of archaeologists discovered another royal grave in a pyramid up the hill from the tomb discovered last week. The pyramid was likely built some 400 years later than the newly opened tomb.

The latest tomb has yet to be opened, but elaborate offerings of figurines of ballplayers, elegant women, dwarfs, and seated lords hint at the supposed occupant's royal status, according to Reuters.

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