Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Tomb of King Snake Gourd Volume 53 Number 3, May/June 2000
by Angela M.H. Schuster

[image] A tomb within a limestone pyramid yielded the remains of a Maya king at the Late Classic site of Ek Balam (Black Jaguar). (Angela M.H. Schuster, courtesy INAH Ek Balam Project)

Exploratory excavations in a 96-foot-high pyramid at the Late Classic Maya site of Ek Balam (Black Jaguar) in northern Yucatán have yielded the remains of a king known as Ukit-Kan Lek (Snake Gourd) who reigned over the city from ca. A.D. 790-835. Discovered by Victor R. Castillo and a team from Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, the tomb contained 22 ceramic vessels, one of which bore the king's name, jade pieces, obsidian blades, and inscribed conch shells

While the walled city of Ek Balam has been known to archaeologists since the late nineteenth century, systematic excavation and consolidation have been undertaken only during the past 15 years. A decade of work by William M. Ringle of Davidson College and George J. Bey of Millsaps College has revealed more than 100 structures and a complex network of sacbeob, or roads, and evidence of some 2,000 years of occupation from the Middle Preclassic to the Colonial period.

The construction sequence of Structure 1, as the pyramid containing the tomb is known, is not fully understood. Located on the site's acropolis, the six-level structure is built atop at least four earlier buildings. Conservation of the bones and artifacts is expected to take at least three months.

© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America