Unparalleled investigation leads to looters’ haven and arrests
An unprecedented collaboration of archeologists, Maya villagers and Guatemalan authorities has resulted in the recovery of a magnificent Maya altar stone that was carved in 796 AD and sheds new light on the collapse of the classic Maya civilization. In addition to the altars archeological importance, its recovery illustrates the value of working with indigenous peoples to restore ancient ruins. Archaeologist Arthur Demarest of Vanderbilt University, who helped recover the altar from the looters hideout, said the relic is one of the finest Maya altars known and provides important clues about one of the wealthiest Maya kingdoms.
The great altar was placed in 796 A.D. as a marker at the end of the royal ball court of Cancuén, the site of one of the largest royal palaces ever found, where the ancient citys ruler would play the sacred Maya ball game against visiting kings. The role of the game was more ritual than sport. Location of ball courts in the ritual space within Maya cities, and the imagery that accompanies them, underscores their role as boundaries between the actual and supernatural worlds.
David F. Salisbury | EurekAlert!
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