Millennium-old sarcophagus could unravel mystery of Mayan civilisation

January 29th, 2010 - 7:18 am ICT by IANS  

Ocosingo (Mexico), Jan 29 (IANS/EFE) Mexican archaeologists working at the Mayan acropolis of Tonina in the southern state of Chiapas have discovered more than a 1,000-year-old sarcophagus, which they hope would help clear up the mystery of the fall of ancient Mayan civilisation.
Juan Yadeun, who heads the archaeological dig located in the municipality of Ocosingo, said Thursday the sarcophagus measures two meters long and about 27 inches wide. It is comparable in importance to the “Red Queen” in Palenque, Chiapas, discovered in 1994.

The archaeologist said the object dates from the years 840-900, the epoch when the last known Maya inscription was made.

“In A.D. 840 there was a very important transformation in the Maya cities. They stopped producing sculptural representations and inscriptions, which has been interpreted as a massive abandonment of the settlements,” Yadeun said.

He said the sarcophagus “will contribute new elements on the collapse of the ancient Maya civilisation, (like) knowing with precision who were the causes of the decline, if it was local people influenced by groups from the Altiplano, coming directly from this part of Mesoamerica or from what today is (the southeastern state of) Tabasco.”

A jar, a skull with traces of deformities and bones in the form of a cross, apparently of “a personage of the top hierarchy, probably a woman or a child” were found inside the sarcophagus.

A spherical jar bones, boiled and fragmented, among others, were also found within the crypt. Tzeltal Indians who settled in the area some 500 years ago placed it there.

Between A.D. 688 and 708, Chaak Bak Nal had ruled Tonina, which was “the largest military empire in Maya history until the arrival of the Aztecs”, said Yadeun.

–IANS/EFE

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