Ancient Maya tomb reveals a man who lived a bit too large

Archeologists recently unearthed an ancient example of a man who lived a bit too large at El Palmar (in modern-day Mexico): the temple tomb of an ancient ambassador who had obtained a position of great influence and prestige before falling from grace and dying in poverty.

Archeologists Jessica Cerezo-Román and Kenichiro Tsukamoto were excavating a temple when they unearthed the tomb of Apoch’Waal beneath the floor of a platformed structure. The process of building the platform was extremely costly and even ostentatious—only elites could afford to invest this much money in afterlife architecture. Cerezo-Román and Tsukamoto were expecting, therefore, to find an equally elaborate tomb adorned with expensive grave goods. They were surprised to find only two decorated pots. A grave-robber might have been disappointed, but the archeologists were intrigued. What was such a humble tomb doing in such a prestigious location?

Jessica Cerezo-Román (Twitter)

Piecing together the evidence from the hieroglyphic inscriptions that decorated the stairs up to the platform with Apoch’Waal’s physical remains they began to reconstruct his life. The results of their work were recently published in Latin American Antiquity. The epigraphic evidence suggests that that the man was a Mayan standard bearer, an important political and economic diplomatic figure in ancient Mesoamerica.

As a boy, his remains show, life may have been a bit tough. The lasting effects of malnutrition or illness remain in his bones, but he had been cared for in the Mayan way: the back of his skull had been subtly reshaped through prolonged contact with a flat object as a child. It was a technique designed to make him more attractive. At some point during puberty, he went through a painful dental procedure for elites designed to increase (or display) his social status. Holes were drilled in all of his upper front teeth and decorative implants made of valuable pyrite and jade were placed inside…

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Source: The Daily Beast

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