maya tomb

The tomb is dated to 650, placing it near the beginning of the Late Classic period. With typical journalistic hype, the National Geographic article announcing the find states that “until now, much about the political makeup and cultural range of the city—famous for its funerary slabs—has been poorly understood.” As if this discovery suddenly makes everything clear.

In fact, the discovery raises more questions than it answers. Why was this individual buried far from the Acropolis, the main Copan center, where other burials have been found? Why is he seated in a cross-legged position that is not typical of Maya burials? Why was he buried with ceramics, apparently from the region of present-day El Savador, that bear non-Maya heiroglyphs?

The find reminds us that the tropical forests of the lowland Maya hide many secrets, and despite astonishing advances by Mayanists over the past several decades there is still much we don’t understand. It will be some time until we make sense of this find.

The image is taken from the National Geographic article.