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07-01-2011, 01:44 AM #1
Tiny camera reveals the inside of a Mayan tombFootage of the tomb in southern Mexico revealed an apparently intact funeral chamber still covered in blood-red paint
A tiny, remote-controlled camera has been lowered into an early Mayan tomb that has been sealed for 1,500 years.
Extraordinary footage of the tomb at the Palenque archaeological site in southern Mexico revealed an apparently intact funeral chamber with red frescoes, pottery and pieces of a funerary shroud made of jade and mother of pearl.
It also showed a series of nine figures depicted in black on a vivid, blood-red background.
Archaeologists say the images from one of the earliest ruler's tombs found at Palenque will shed new light on the early years of the once-great city state.
The National Institute of Anthropology and History said archaeologists have known about the tomb since 1999, but have been unable to enter it because the pyramid standing above it is unstable and breaking into the chamber could damage the murals.
It said the floor appears to be covered with detritus and it is not immediately evident in the footage if the tomb contains recognisable remains.
The chamber was found in a heavily-deteriorated pyramid complex known as the Southern Acropolis, in a jungle-covered area of Palenque not far from the Temple of Inscriptions, where the tomb of a later ruler, Pakal, was found in the 1950s.
While Pakal's tomb featured a famous and heavily carved sarcophagus, no such structure is seen in the footage of the tomb released yesterday.
The institute said in a statement that 'it is very probable that the fragmented bones are lying directly on the stones of the floor'.
But Dr Cuevas said the discovery shed new light on early rulers, and its proximity to other burial sites suggested the tomb may be part of a funerary complex.
'All this leads us to consider that the Southern Acropolis was used as a royal necropolis during that period,' she said
The tomb's existence was revealed by a shaft found near the top of the ruined pyramid, leading downward. But it was too narrow to provide any kind of view of the chamber.
In late April, researchers lowered the tiny 2in-long camera into the tomb using the 6in-wide shaft.
While the general public had not seen images of the interior of the tomb, video of it was made after the chamber was detected in 1999, noted David Stuart, a specialist in Mayan epigraphy at the University of Texas at Austin.
The images had circulated among researchers and been posted on the internet, and Dr Stuart said that some evidence suggests the tomb "is the burial of a noted female ruler of Palenque named Ix Yohl Ik'nal, based on the date and on the identities of ancestral figures painted on the walls.'
'The female ruler is mentioned in a number of the historical texts of the site,' he wrote.
It would not be the first tomb of a female noble found at Palenque - in 1994, archaeologists found the tomb of a woman dubbed The Red Queen because of the red pigment covering her tomb.
But it has never been established that she was a ruler of Palenque, and her tomb dates from a later period, between 600 and 700 AD.
The entrance to the tomb. Inside, its floor occupies about five square metres with a low, Mayan-arch roof of overlapping stones.
Archaeologists have known about the tomb of a Mayan ruler at Palenque since 1999, but have only just developed the technology to be able to explore it
WHO WERE THE MAYANS?
The Mayan Civilisation is the general name given to several independent, loosely affiliated city states who shared a cultural heritage.
They occupied central America, including the southern parts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
It was an area of about 150,000 square miles - researchers tend to split the Maya into the Highland and Lowland Maya.
The Maya are thought to have existed between 500 BC and AD 900.
The various groups spoke nearly 30 closely related languages and dialects
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