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Still Waters

'Jester god' revealed oldest Mayan royal tomb

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Still Waters
The image of a "Jester god," a symbol of royalty among the ancient Maya, may have done just the trick. Discovered on a buried incense burner, the Jester god identifies what archaeologists report is the oldest tomb of an ancient Maya ruler.

The ancient Maya filled Central America with pyramid-dotted cities prior to a drawn-out abandonment of such sites around 850 A.D., one of archaeology's most storied mysteries. The unexpected find from the archaeological site of K'o (Kuh-OH) in modern-day Guatemala, reported here at the Society for American Archaeology meeting, pushes the first known Maya ruler, or "Ajaw," back two centuries to around 350 B.C.

"We have older Maya burials, but don't have ones with grave goods that include a royal symbol," says research associate John Tomasic of the University of Kansas, who found the burial site in 2008 at K'o. The remains found in K'o, which was a suburb, more or less, of a larger Maya site of Holmul, were under what seemed like the ruins of a wealthy, but normal, home.

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