The discovery of an ancient painted vase, which bears one of the longest hieroglyphic texts uncovered in the Central America lowlands, is offering new clues into the mysterious breakdown of ancient Maya civilization, says a Baylor University scholar who led the excavation.
The shattered vessel — found amid artifacts associated with the abandonment of the royal palace complex at the Maya site of Baking Pot in Belize — was discovered in excavations directed by Julie Hoggarth, Ph.D., assistant professor of anthropology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences.
When Hoggarth stumbled upon the first fragment, she spotted the emblem hieroglyph for “Yaxha” — an ancient Maya city and ceremonial center in Guatemala. She took a cellphone photo and sent it to Christophe Helmke, Ph.D., of the University of Copenhagen, archaeologist and scholar of Classic Maya hieroglyphic scripts.
“He emailed from Copenhagen within an hour,” Hoggarth said. “He said, ‘This is really important. Find more.’”
A recently published book, with photos, illustrations and detailed translation and analysis of the hieroglyphs and text, tells of political upheaval, alliances, warfare, rituals, Maya rulers’ genealogy — and “propaganda about royalty” — during an era of “godly kings,” Hoggarth said.
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