Warrior queen's tomb in Guatemala gives up Mayan secrets

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Archaeologists in Guatemala have discovered the tomb of an ancient Mayan warrior queen packed with jade jewels and other artifacts that shed light on the long-vanished civilization, experts said on Wednesday.

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Researchers from Guatemala and the United States uncovered the remains of Queen Kalomt’e K’abel, who reigned in the seventh century, at the Peru-Waka dig site in the sweltering Peten jungle region in northern Guatemala.

Inside the tomb, the team found a hoard of glistening jade jewels and a small alabaster vase decorated with the image of an older woman’s face and inscribed with the queen’s name, providing identification of the long-dead ruler.

“To discover something of this importance is very unusual,” lead archaeologist David Freidel told Reuters. “She was the supreme warlord of her kingdom.”

The remains were discovered in June but it has taken until now for experts to verify the identity of the queen.

The Central American nation is studded with pyramids and ruins from the ancient Mayan civilization, which thrived between AD 250 and 900 and extended from modern day Honduras to central Mexico.

Queen K’abel’s portrait has appeared on Mayan plaques that associate her with the year 692 during the Mayan classic period, when her husband, king Wak K’inich Bahlam II, ruled.

Historians believe that K’abel reigned over Calakmul, a Mayan community which often battled the powerful king ‘El Zotz’ and his kingdom Tikal - just south of the border with present-day Mexico - where well-preserved ruins are a popular draw for tourists.

Deciphering the identities of ancient Mayan leaders from dig sites often proves a challenge. While rulers’ tombs are often covered with ancient hieroglyphics and pictures, determining precise names is difficult, researchers said.

“We had made a lot of discoveries of objects making reference to this queen and now to complete it with her remains is very important,” said Guatemalan archaeologist Griselda Perez.

Editing Tim Gaynor and Mohammad Zargham