Archaeologists working in Guatemala say they've discovered the tomb of Lady K'abel, a seventh-century queen considered one of the greatest Mayan rulers.
The tomb was discovered during excavations of the royal Maya city of El Perú-Waka' in northwestern Petén, Guatemala, by a team of archaeologists led by Washington University.
It's been identified as belonging to Lady K'abel on the basis of a small, white alabaster jar found at the site. It's carved as a conch shell, with the head and arm of an aged woman emerging from the opening - and it's this depiction of the woman, mature with a lined face, that led to the identification of the tomb, along with four glyphs carved into the jar.
Ceramic vessels found in the tomb and carvings on the outside also support this theory, says the team.
The discovery of the tomb of the great queen was "serendipitous, to put it mildly," says David Freidel of the University of Washington. The team has actually been focusing on 'ritually-charged' features such as shrines, altars and dedicatory offerings rather than on the burial locations of particular individuals.
But, says Friedel, "In retrospect, it makes a lot of sense that the people of Waka' buried her in this particularly prominent place in their city."
K'abel, considered the greatest ruler of the Late Classic period, ruled with her husband, K'inich Bahlam, between about 672 and 692 AD. She was the military governor of the Wak kingdom for her family, the imperial house of the Snake King, and carried the title Kaloomte', or Supreme Warrior - higher in authority than her husband, the king.
She's famous for her portrayal on the famous Maya stela, Stela 34 of El Perú, now in the Cleveland Art Museum.