Excavating a remote Maya palace in the ruined city of Uxul, archaeologists in Mexico have uncovered the ancient tomb of a young prince—and a rare artifact.
The floor of an entrance building within Uxul’s 11-building royal complex concealed the entrance to the small chamber, which held the remains of the 20- to 25-year-old man and nine ceramic objects.
On one cup, “there was a simple message … in elegantly modeled hieroglyphics that read: ‘[This is] the cup of the young man/prince,'” team member Nikolai Grube, an anthropologist at Germany’s University of Bonn, said in a late-July statement.
Another cup bears a date, which Grube and colleague Kai Delvendahl interpret to mean the year A.D. 711, giving some indication as to when the prince lived and died.
It’s common for Maya artifacts to refer to their owners, Grube said. But all previous princely drinking vessels have been excavated “illegally, without controlled excavation, by looters. This is the first time we have found such a vessel in an archaeological context.”
The Maya civilization sprawled across much of modern-day Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Around A.D. 900 the so-called Classic era of the Maya Empire came to a close after a series of droughts and perhaps political strife.
Despite its obvious archaeological attractions, the small tomb at Uxul (ooh-SHOOL) is noticeably lacking in jade jewelry—suggesting the prince was not in line for the throne, experts say.