Mysterious grave of Maya king yields riches, but no body...
Grave is oldest Mayan burial discovered to date.
Archaeologists have excavated the grave of a legendary Mayan king who they believe set the foundations for the Mayan civilization. The grave was discovered in June and archaeologists are confirming it belongs to King K'utz Chman who lived around 700 B.C.
King Chman was a priest-king meaning he was a member of both the ruling class and the Mayan priesthood. He is believed to have used his influence to shape Mayan culture by instructing his people to construct pyramids instead of square buildings and to carve images of the royal family, both practices that would become hallmarks of the Mayan civilization.
Prior to the rise of the Maya were a people known as the Olmecs. The Olmec civilization declined in favor of the Maya around the time of King Chman's reign. Chman is considered one of the first actual Maya kings.
The Maya were not a unified people, insofar as they were a collection of lose city-states that were bound by religion, culture, and trade. Each city-state has its own king who typically owed no allegiance to the others. On occasion, the city-states went to war with one another.
The Maya also maintained a vast trading network that included sea-trade up and down the coasts of Central America. Their civilization declined in the late 9th century for reasons that are still debated by researchers.
The leading theory is that prolonged drought combined with overpopulation and over-exploitation of the environment leading to increased warfare and collapse.
Ethnic Mayans still populate the region.
Studying the artifacts in King Chman's grave will give researchers insights into how the early Mayan kings may have lived. Chman was buried with a large number of jade carvings. The Maya believed Jade had spiritual properties. Several carved statues were placed with him into the grave, which indicated both his status as king and wealth as a member of the elite ruling class.
Interestingly, King Chman's body was not found in the grave. Researchers still believe the site to be his grave because it has all the hallmarks of such gravesites including offerings.
It remains a mystery as to why his body is missing.
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