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Archaeologist discovers ancient Mayan tombs

By Metia Carroll

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    NEW ORLEANS (WDSU) — An archaeologist from Tulane University has discovered an ancient Maya tomb near the borders of now Mexico and Belize.

Francisco Estrada-Belli and his team began their discovery of the tombs in 2019, which were discovered during fieldwork in 2022. They used lidar technology to shoot laser beams from an airplane through the jungle foliage to map what was on the ground.

“It’s like taking x-rays of the jungle floor,” Estrada-Belli said. “It revolutionizes our field. Only now can we see where we’re going instead of just bushwhacking through the jungle hoping to find something.”

The tomb is dated back 1,700 years and holds funeral offerings, including a mosaic jade mask, rare mollusk shells and writings carved in human femur bones.

The archaeologist says one of the tombs depicts a profile of a man who is believed to be an unknown king holding a jade mask similar to the one found in the tomb linking the ruler to Mayan states, Tikal and Teotihuacan.

The only damage to the tomb was the tomb’s stone ceiling collapsing in on itself.

The tomb held more than 16 shells of a rare spiny oyster called spondylus, which was used by royalty as jewelry and currency and used in religious and sacrificial offerings.

Belli says the next stage in his work at the site will be to conduct DNA tested on the bones and uncover additional key contents buried within the abandoned pyramid.

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