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New Maya Site Found June 25, 1997

[image]Ian Graham examines a carved altar at the recently discovered Maya site of La Corona, in northern Guatemala, while David Stuart (at left) and others look on. (James D. Nations) [LARGER IMAGE]

The ruins of a Maya city have been discovered near a tributary of the Río San Pedro in northern Guatemala. The site came to the attention of scholars in February 1996, when a local guide took environmentalist Santiago Billy there on a survey of nesting scarlet macaws.

Ian Graham and David Stuart, of Harvard University's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, went there this past May to map the site and photograph and draw any surviving inscriptions. "The ruins are not extensive," says Graham, "but everywhere there are vast looters' excavations." Because five small temples standing in a row reminded the guide of a crown, Graham and Stuart named the site La Corona.

"On the first day," says Stuart, "we found two clear references to Great or Red Turkey, a ballplayer mentioned by name on a carved panel now in the Art Institute of Chicago." The source of this panel is unknown, but it seems to belong with a number of other unprovenienced monuments in American and European collections: the inscriptions on many of these panels include a snake-head emblem glyph, and texts begun on several of them continue on others in the set. The epigrapher Peter Mathews, now of the University of Calgary, called the undiscovered city from which the panels came Site Q.

Stuart also says that the "inscriptions at La Corona also include numerous references to political events involving the snake-head site." This emblem glyph appears in texts at sites throughout the Maya Lowlands, including Calakmul, a large site 40 miles north of La Corona, in southern Campeche, Mexico. Most epigraphers think that Calakmul is the snake-head state because inscriptions there refer to it as a sovereign polity, while elsewhere it appears as a foreign state. But Calakmul has been well excavated (see ARCHAEOLOGY, November/December 1995), and archaeologists have not found a building, staircase, or monument missing tablets the size and shape of the Site Q panels.

That La Corona might be the source of some of the Site Q monuments is causing a great deal of excitement among Mayanists, but so far there is no conclusive evidence. See Ian Graham's exclusive field report, and a history of the search for Site Q, in our September/October issue.

© 1997 by the Archaeological Institute of America