Archaeologists have discovered the tomb of an ancient Mayan king at the pre-Columbian site of El Perú-Waka’ in Guatemala. Thought to date from 300–350 AD, it is the oldest royal tomb found in the northwestern Petén region.

“Although the dates are preliminary and need further analysis, we think this could be one of the first rulers of the Wak dynasty,” archaeologist Griselda Pérez Robles told artnet News in email. Along with two colleagues, Pérez Robles helped lead the tunnel excavations in the site’s palace acropolis that led to the find.

“Excavations from outside the building took 76 days of uninterrupted work,” Pérez Robles added, noting that the discovery of the tomb itself took place on day 65 and required eight intensive days of work. “We removed one of the rocks and could see a funeral chamber with bone remains. Their offerings were covered with cinnabar, which indicated that it was a personage of royalty.”

The tomb, the seventh to be found at the site, has been named Burial 80. It contained a carved jade mask that depicts the departed ruler as the Mayan god of maize, as well as 22 ceramic vessels, Spondylus shells, jade ornaments, and a shell pendant carved in the shape of a crocodile.

“The Classic Maya revered their divine rulers and treated them as living souls after death,” David Freidel told the Source at Washington University in St. Louis, where he is a professor of anthropology. “This king’s tomb helped to make the royal palace acropolis holy ground, a place of majesty, early in the history of the Wak dynasty.” Read more