One of the most intriguing Maya tombs ever discovered in Belize has been unearthed in the Mayan city of Xunantunich in the western part of the country. Archeologists are just now beginning to piece together the hieroglyphic panels found in what is believed to be a royal tomb that describe a “Snake Dynasty” that once ruled the area 1,300 years ago.
Xunantunich, located on the Mopan River in what is now Belize’s Cayo District, has been excavated since the late 19th century but the new discovery of a tomb is the first ever unearthed in the ruins that once were home to thousands of people. The royal term was discovered more than 20 feet below the surface of one of the central structures in Xunantunich, unearthed when archeologists began clearing away the original central stairway of the building.
Lead archeologist Jaime Awe said that preliminary analysis of the skeleton discovered in the tomb are of a young man in his 20s or 30s, “quite muscular” in form, buried with a rich assortment of grave goods that included 13 obsidian blades, 36 ceramic vessels, and six jade beads.
Measuring more than 4.5 meters (15 feet) by 2.4 meters (7 feet 11 inches), the royal tomb at Xunantunich is one of the largest burial chambers ever discovered in Belize. “From what we can see, it looks like the temple we were excavating was built purposely for enclosing the tomb,” said Awe, an architectural feature more common in ancient Egypt than traditional styles of tomb building in the Maya Empire.
Many of the ancient Maya city-states were ruled by dynastic families, including Xunantunich. Other tombs have been discovered also bearing the hieroglyphics that feature a snake-head emblem that gave the Snake Dynasty its name. Previous excavations have already discovered that the Snake Dynasty family were the masters of several city-states in the area.
The hieroglyphs found in the tomb describe how Lord Kan II, the ruler of Caracol and a member of the Snake Dynasty, achieved a military victory over the city-state of Naranjo. The panels found in Xunantunich seem to match fragments felt elsewhere, leading archeologists to feel hopeful that these new panels will help fill in the missing gaps of the story of the Snake Dynasty.
Banyan Bay, the multiple award-winning resort on the island of Ambergris Caye, offers guests guided tours to a number of Maya ruins in Belize, including Xunantunich. Guests who want to see the amazing royal tomb that was just discovered at Xunantunich should book their tour with Banyan Bay.