Mayan Frieze Found Below Ancient Guatemalan Pyramid Depicts Images Of Centuries-Old Gods And Rulers [REPORT]

By Philip Ross on August 8, 2013 3:09 PM EDT

mayan frieze
A Mayan frieze measuring 30 feet across was discovered at the site of an ancient Mayan temple, much like the one pictured here in Mexico, in Guatemala. (Photo: Reuters)

A Mayan frieze found in Guatemala is an "extraordinary" discovery, according to archaeologist who unearthed the ancient sculpture last month. The 30-foot-long, 6-foot-tall Mayan frieze, found at the base of a 1,400-year-old pyramid, depicts images of centuries-old gods and rulers, and is apparently in great condition.

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The Mayan frieze, which runs along the base of the pyramid and is made of stucco, contains some 30 glyphs, or carved symbols. According to AP, Guatemalan archaeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli discovered the Mayan frieze while he and his team from Tulane University's Anthropology Department were exploring the pyramid in an area known for classic ruin sites.

"It is one of the most fabulous things I have ever seen," Estrada-Belli told USA Today. "The preservation is wonderful because it was very carefully packed with dirt before they started building over it."

"It's a great work of art that also gives us a lot of information on the role and significance of the building, which was the focus of our research," he continued.

Once deciphered, the centuries-old text gives archaeologists a glimpse into a very important time in Mayan history.

The Guatemalan government announced the discovery of the Mayan frieze on Wednesday. It said the frieze is the "most spectacular frieze seen to date." But according to Time, one archaeologist demurs with the government's superlative assessment of the ancient sculpture.

"It's really impressive," David Stuart an expert in Mayan epigraphy at the University of Texas at Austin, said in an email to AP. But he added, "I certainly wouldn't say this is the 'most spectacular' temple facade."

Mayan pyramids are both things of wonder as well as points of contention in Latin America. In May, controversy erupted in Belize over a Mayan pyramid was destroyed by builders who dismantled the 100-foot-tall structure to use its material for street gravel. IScience Times reported the 2,300-year-old temple was the main temple of Nohmul. It sat on a complex of 10 plazas and two ceremonial clusters encompassing 12 square miles in Belize.

The pyramid was dismantled under the direction of the landowner. But according to Belizean law, all pre-Hispanic ruins, even those on private property, are under federal protection.

Read more from iScience Times:

Mayan Pyramid Destroyed: Why Did Builders In Belize Take Down A 2,300-Year-Old Pyramid?

Mayan Temple Damaged During December 21 Apocalypse Party

New Ant Species: U.S. Biologists Name 33 Kinds Of Central American And Caribbean Ants, Some After Ancient Mayan Lords And Demons

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