This ceramic tamale bowl was found near a partly burned baby, gem-studded teeth, and other artifacts in a Maya royal tomb that was opened in Guatemala in May and announced Friday. (Full story: "Bowls of Fingers, Baby Victims, More Found in Maya Tomb.")
Ceramic containers at the site were found filled with human fingers of sacrifice victims and teeth wrapped in decayed organic material—perhaps leaves.
The fingers and teeth were "perhaps a kind of food or symbolic meal offering," Houston speculated. "Sacred breads in [Mexico's] Yucatán are wrapped in such materials today."
Found under a small, jungle-covered pyramid at at the El Zotz archaeological site, the 1,600-year-old tomb "could be a veritable gold mine of information about ... the Maya," said Stephen Houston, an archaeologist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, who is leading the excavation.
The tomb also contained the remains of an adult, thought to be a king, and six children, several of them infants. The children were likely sacrificed as the king was laid to rest during a ritual dance echoing a ceremony depicted in Mayan art.
(Pictures: what the Maya Empire looked like.)