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Jester god symbol leads to Maya tomb

The image of a “Jester god”, a symbol of royalty, has led archaeologists to find the oldest known burial site for a Maya ruler.

“We excavated the floor of the building and just dug down until we found a lid,” Tomasic says. Under the lid, about 16 inches across, (“just wide enough for a human body,” he says), was a tunnel leading into a ” chultun” (chull-TOON), a storage chamber. “We crawled in and shined a light and saw the burial.”

Arrayed around the body of a man, likely in his 50’s and seemingly in good health at the time of his death (aside from some arthritis and a few cavities in his teeth), were seven ceramic vessels, jars and plates. Most intriguing was a black incense burner, depicting a man wearing a distinctive headdress, marked by a trefoil shape on its forehead like the tassel of a jester’s cap. This Maya jester god headdress is widely known among scholars as one of the earliest symbols of Maya rulership, seen in murals and carvings of kings from 100 B.C. or so, onwards.

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Story: Dan Vergano, USA Today | Photo: Jason Paling, Holmul Archaeological Project

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