A Queen’s Things

Anthropologist David Freidel discovered an alabaster vessel that may have belonged to one of the greatest rulers of Classic Maya civilization, Lady K’abel. (Francisco Castaneda and the El Peru-Waka Archaeology Regional Project)

A small alabaster jar could ­confirm the discovery of the tomb of one of the great queens of Classic Maya civilization.

Archaeologists in Guatemala discovered the object alongside a skeleton, presumed to be that of Lady K’abel, during excavations of a burial chamber in the ancient royal Maya city of El Perú-Waka’ in northwestern Petén, Guatemala. David Freidel, PhD, professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences, is co-director of the expedition with Juan Carlos Pérez, former vice minister of culture for cultural heritage of Guatemala.

The white vessel is carved as a conch shell, with a head and arm of an aged woman emerging from the opening. One of the four worn ­hieroglyphs etched into the jar reads, “Lady ­Waterlily-Hand,” a known reference to Lady K’abel, a seventh-century Maya Holy Snake Lord. K’abel ruled with her husband, K’inich Bahlam, for at least 20 years (672–692 AD). She was the military governor of the Wak kingdom for her family, the ­imperial house of the Snake King, and she ­carried the ­title “Kaloomte’,” translated to ­“Supreme Warrior,” higher in ­authority than her husband, the king.

Lady K’abel ruled with her husband for at least 20 years (672–692 AD) as the military governor of the Wak kingdom in southern Guatemala.

Based on the jar and other evidence, including ceramic ­vessels found in the tomb and stela (large stone slab) carvings on the outside, the tomb is likely that of K’abel, Freidel says.

El Perú-Waka’, located approximately 50 miles west of the famous city of Tikal, was part of ­Classic Maya civilization (200–900 AD) in the southern lowlands. The metropolis consists of nearly a square kilometer of plazas, palaces, temple pyramids and residences surrounded by many square kilometers of dispersed residences and temples.

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