Ancient Maya Monument with Hieroglyphs Tells a Dramatic Tale
Archaeologists excavating underneath a temple in an ancient Maya city in Guatemala have discovered an intricately carved stone monument with hieroglyphic text dating back approximately 1,500 years, providing new insights into the ancient kingdom of Waka’ and its relations with the most powerful kingdoms in the lowland Maya world.
The stone monument was discovered in the Maya city of El Perú-Waka’, which once commanded major trade routes in the Classic period. It was found in a tunnel underneath the main temple of the city which led to a royal tomb and tells a dramatic tale involving political intrigue and bloodshed. It is one of a number of dramatic stories of Classic Maya history that have been recovered through the decipherment of Maya glyphs, a science that has made great advancements in the last 30 years.
The hieroglyphic text suggests that the monument was commissioned by Wak dynasty King Wa’oom Uch’ab Tzi’kin (He Who Stands up the Offering of the Eagle) to honor his father, King Chak Took Ich’aak (Red Spark Claw), who had died in 556 AD. It is the first time that these Maya rulers have become known to modern history, providing a critical contribution to the understanding of Maya culture. A new queen, Lady Ikoom, is also featured in the text and she is believed to be one of two Snake dynasty princesses sent into arranged marriages with the rulers of El Perú-Waka’ and another nearby Maya city as a means of cementing Snake control over this region of Northern Guatemala.
After standing exposed to the elements for more than 100 years, the research team suggests that the monument was moved by order of a later king and buried as an offering inside new construction that took place at the main El Perú-Waka’ temple about 700 AD, probably as part of funeral rituals for a great queen entombed in the building at this time.
While the text on the monument is only partially preserved, it reveals an important moment in the history of Waka’.