Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Maya News Updates Banner 2007
Maya News Updates 2008, No. 18: Tak'alik Ab'aj, Guatemala - New Discovery Sheds Light on Early Maya Kingship? [UPDATED April 9, 2008]
Yesterday, Monday April 7, 2008, the National Geographic Society posted a video in which a recent and important archaeological find at the site of Tak'alik Ab'aj, located on the Pacific Ocean side of the Guatemalan mountain range in the departament of Retalhuleu, was introduced. The find concerns a large squared stone (probably an altar) the borders of which contain a short hieroglyphic text. The stone has been labelled Altar 48 and was discovered on March 10, 2008 (Schieber, personal communication, April 8, 2008). The text is said to be four compounds (the voice-over employs "hieroglyphics") long and one of the compounds is said to record the ascension to the throne of a king of the city of Tak'alik Ab'aj.

(images as posted here are screenshots taken from the National Geographic Society video)

The video does show the monument, but unfortunately it does not show the new hieroglyphic text in detail. According to Christa Schieber de Lavarreda, the archaeologist from the Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes de Guatemala project at Tak'alik Ab'aj featured in the video, "the king mentioned in the relief could be the founder of a Mayan dynasty here." She continues her (translated) comment that "also this could be the birth of Mayan culture."
The find of the squared stone is said to date from circa 200 BC, which at present solely is based on the style of the sculpture and the style of writing. At present the earliest finds at Tak'alik Ab'aj date to 2,800 years ago. Since 1987 the Proyecto Nacional Tak'alik Abaj is excavating, consolidating, and conservating this important archaeological site and the national park in which it is located. The project is directed by Christa Schieber de Lavarreda and Miguel Orrego Corzo. It is hoped that the short inscription will be published (or posted on the web) soon, so that an adequate comment on this important and possibly Late Preclassic text can be presented. Other important Late Preclassic hieroglyphic texts were found at the site of San Bartolo, department of El Petén, Guatemala, most recently in late 2005 (reported in Sciencexpress of January 5, 2006) (for some descriptions of the finds at San Bartolo, see Maya News Updates 2007, Nos. 16, 50, and 51).
The National Geographic Society video (duration: 1:27 min.) can be found here.


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