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New Stela at Tikal April 7, 1997
by Angela M.H. Schuster

A stela bearing a portrait of K'an Ak (Precious Peccary), the twelfth ruler of Tikal, has been found at the Classic Maya site, the first stela found there in more that 30 years. Discovered within the southwest corner of Structure 5D-29 on the site's North Acropolis, the stela shows the king holding a serpent bar, a Maya sign of rulership, and flanked by portraits of his father and grandfather. The figures are accompanied by a badly eroded text of some 90 glyphs, which begins with a dedicatory date of June 20, A.D. 468, and tells of events in K'an Ak's life, including his accession on August 24, A.D. 458, 15 days after the burial of his father Sian Ka'an (Stormy Sky).

According to Guatemalan epigrapher Federico Fahsen, the monument, known as Stela 40, was most likely carved by the same sculptor responsible for the well-known Stela 31 depicting Sian Ka'an. "While the text of Stela 40 lacks the fine quality of Stela 31, the carved portraits are superb," says Fahsen.

The monument was found last summer by a team of excavators led by Juan Antonio Valdés, director of Guatemala's Instituto de Antropologia e Historia. Stela 40 is now on display at the Tikal National Park.

© 1997 by the Archaeological Institute of America