Deep in the jungle in the north of Guatemala, along deep-rutted 4x4 tracks, the pyramids of the great Maya city of Xultún are hidden under heavy vegetation and oddly symmetrical hills. But crudely cut tunnels in the sides of the hills signal a modern intrusion.
The tunnels are the work of “huecheros”—the local slang term for antiquity looters, derived from the Maya word for armadillo. On a building overlooking an ancient plaza, the looters scrawl a message, brazen and taunting: “We, the huecheros, stuck it to this place.”
Almost every pyramid in the sprawling site has a looter’s tunnel on at least one side. Most of the hieroglyphic panels, the pottery, and the jade from tombs here have been raided and sold on the black market to wealthy foreigners. Read more.
A team of archaeologists in Guatemala has discovered a council house dating back about 700 years with altars, incense burners and sculpted images of animals.
Located at the site of Nixtun-Ch’ich’ in Petén,Guatemala,the house has “two colonnaded halls constructed side by side. The halls were decorated with sculpted [reptile], parrot and turtle imagery,” writes Timothy Pugh, a professor at Queens College in New York, in a summary of a talk he recently gave at the Society for American Archaeology annual meeting in Austin, Texas.
A Mayan group called the Chakan Itza would have used this council house as aplace to hold meetings, worship gods, make alliances and officiate marriage ceremonies. Read more.
Beneath the Guatemalan rainforests, hidden from mankind for more than a millennium, lie remains of the once vast kingdom of the Maya.
A pair of scientists from The University of Alabama in Huntsville will be in Guatemala next week to test whether a camera carried aloft by a tiny, battery-powered helicopter might one day help uncover lost Maya ruins.
Dr. Robert Griffin, an assistant professor of Earth system science at UAH, and graduate student Casey Calamaio will spend three days testing a multi-spectral camera during brief flights of a radio-controlled helicopter over Maya ruins at Tikal and Yaxha. They will use the images - similar to those from Landsat but in much higher resolution - to look for signs of the types of plant stress frequently seen in trees growing over archaeological sites in Central America. Read more.
The Guatemalan government announced the repatriation from the United States of a Mayan panel dating from the classic period, 250-900.
The limestone piece, which stands roughly 50 centimeters (19.6 inches) tall, was taken from the La Corona site in the northern province of Peten, an area seen as the cradle of the ancient Maya civilization.
Guatemala learned in 2001 that the panel was part of a private collection in San Francisco, the country’s deputy minister for Cultural and Natural Heritage, Rosa Maria Chan, told Efe. Read more.
El Pilar. The name means “watering basin”, reflecting its rich water resources. Spread across the border between western Belize and northeastern Guatemala, this ancient Maya city center is considered the largest site in the Belize River region, boasting over 25 known plazas and hundreds of other structures, covering an area of about 120 acres. Monumental construction at El Pilar began in the Middle Preclassic period, around 800 BCE, and at its height centuries later it harbored more than 20,000 people.
It thus may come as a surprise for many visitors when they actually see the site. Its immensity belies the view — for this city, unlike many of its well-known counterparts in Belize and Guatemala — sites like Tikal and Caracol — remains mostly cloaked in its dense tropical shroud. Read more.
Archaeologist Anya Shetler cleans an inscription below an ancient stucco frieze recently unearthed in the buried Maya city of Holmul in the Peten region of Guatemala. Sunlight from a tunnel entrance highlights the carved legs of a ruler sitting atop the head of a Maya mountain spirit.
The enormous frieze—which measures 26 feet by nearly 7 feet (8 meters by 2 meters)—depicts human figures in a mythological setting, suggesting these may be deified rulers. It was discovered in July in the buried foundations of a rectangular pyramid in Holmul.
Maya archaeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli and his team were excavating a tunnel left open by looters when they happened upon the frieze. “The looters had come close to it, but they hadn’t seen it,” Estrada-Belli said. Read more.
Archaeologist tunneling beneath the main temple of the ancient Maya city of El Perú-Waka’ in northern Guatemala have discovered an intricately carved stone monument with hieroglyphic text detailing the exploits of a little-known sixth-century princess whose progeny prevailed in a bloody, back-and-forth struggle between two of the civilization’s most powerful royal dynasties, Guatemalan cultural officials announced July 16.
"Great rulers took pleasure in describing adversity as a prelude to ultimate success," said research director David Freidel, PhD, a professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. "Here the Snake queen, Lady Ikoom, prevailed in the end."
Freidel, who is studying in Paris this summer, said the stone monument, known officially as El Perú Stela 44, offers a wealth of new information about a “dark period” in Maya history, including the names of two previously unknown Maya rulers and the political realities that shaped their legacies. Read more.
BYU researchers have dug up new evidence from an ancient Maya city that may help solve the mystery of just how many people lived in the civilization.
Using soil chemistry, combined with advanced remote sensing and satellite imagery, the researchers have pinpointed for the first time where Maya farmers in Tikal, Guatemala, carried out some of their most significant crop production.
The location of the prime farmland indicates that the Maya population at Tikal may have been much different than previously thought.
"Our soil analysis is finding that Mayas did not grow maize heavily on the hillsides, but rather along the borders of the low-lying wetlands called bajos," Read more.