LLILAS Student Leads Team to Major Archaeological Discovery in Guatemala
Posted: September 30, 2010
Edwin Román, a LLILAS MA student and codirector of Proyecto El Zotz, led a team of archaeologists during summer 2010 in the jungles of Petén in northern Guatemala, only to stumble upon a monumental discovery: the possible tomb of “Chak,” an ancient Mayan ruler.
Chak, whose name means fish-dog, governed the ancient Mayan city El Zotz, located in the San Miguel Biotope Palotada in Petén. El Zotz translates to “bat” and reflects its namesake with the large population of these mammals that inhabit the cave inside the complex. Surrounded by a moist tropical forest, the first official archaeological visit was in 1977, and to this day many unexcavated ruins remain underground.
Román and his team began dredging the site known as El Diablo in 2009, when a faded but colorful stucco façade was found depicting representations of the Sun God and the Jaguar God of the Underworld. Later they discovered the remnants of six children between the ages of 1 and 5, thought to be sacrifices to the ruler. This evidence of children killed in honor of their rulers is a new find. Additionally, Román and his team found jade materials, mosaics, masks, Spondylus, and other shells possibly used for ritual dances, textiles, and a royal headdress.
The El Diablo complex is believed to date to the Late Classic Period. The uncovered tomb dates back to the Classic Period Mayans (300–600 AD) and provides an important link in furthering understanding of the symbols and processes of ancient Mayan funeral rites.