Large Mayan Frieze Found in Guatemala

Archeologists were exploring pyramid

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Aug 8, 2013 3:55 PM CDT

(Newser) – Archaeologists have found an "extraordinary" Mayan frieze richly decorated with images of deities and rulers and a long dedicatory inscription. The frieze was discovered in the northern Province of Petenelli by a team led by Guatemalan archaeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli, a professor at Tulane. The archaeologists were exploring a Mayan pyramid that dates to AD 600 in an area that is home to other classic ruin sites. The high-relief stucco sculpture, which measures 26 feet by 6 feet, includes three main characters wearing rich ornaments of quetzal feathers and jade sitting on the heads of monsters.

The frieze, which was found in July, depicts the image of gods and godlike rulers and gives their names. The inscription is composed of some 30 glyphs in a band that runs at the base of the structure. For the record, the building is believed to have been commissioned by Ajwosaj, king of the neighboring city-state of Naranjo, and vassal of the powerful Kaanul dynasty. A government statement calls it "the most spectacular frieze seen to date," though an expert in Mayan epigraphy not involved in the discovery thinks that's a bit a stretch. Still, he adds, "It's really impressive."

A detail of a high-relief stucco sculpture in the Mayan city of Holmul.
A detail of a high-relief stucco sculpture in the Mayan city of Holmul.   (Francisco Estrada-Belli)
Archaeologist Anya Shetler cleans an inscription on the sculpture.
Archaeologist Anya Shetler cleans an inscription on the sculpture.   (Francisco Estrada-Belli)
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