Mayan ‘Game of Thrones’

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - News -

A 1,500-year-old Mayan al­tar dis­cov­ered in a small arche­o­log­i­cal site in north­ern Gu­atemala is draw­ing com­par­isons to pop­u­lar fan­tasy drama tele­vi­sion series Game of Thrones for its de­scrip­tions of the Kaanul dy­nasty’s po­lit­i­cal strate­gies aimed at bring­ing en­tire cities un­der its con­trol.

The al­tar, carved out of lime­stone and weigh­ing about one ton, had been found at the La Corona arche­o­log­i­cal site in the jun­gle re­gion close to the bor­ders with Mex­ico and Belize, To­mas Bar­ri­en­tos, co-di­rec­tor of ex­ca­va­tions and in­ves­ti­ga­tions at the site, said.

Bar­ri­en­tos said the al­tar had been found in a tem­ple and showed La Corona’s ruler, King Chak Took Ich’aak, “sit­ting and hold­ing a scep­tre from which emerge two pa­tron gods of the city”.

Ac­cord­ing to stud­ies, the 1.46mx1.2m slab con­tains a hi­ero­glyphic Mayan in­scrip­tion cor­re­spond­ing to May 12 544.

Other dis­cov­er­ies have al- lowed re­searchers to de­ter­mine that the same king also gov­erned the nearby city of El Peru-Waka some 20 years later.

Bar­ri­en­tos says these pieces of ev­i­dence show that the Kaanul dy­nasty, or Ser­pent Kingdom, de­vel­oped a po­lit­i­cal move­ment in La Corona that al­lowed them to de­feat their Tikal “archri­vals” in 562 and there­after rule the Mayan low­lands in south­east Me­soamer­ica for two cen­turies.

That po­lit­i­cal move­ment was based around al­liances with small cities sur­round­ing Tikal ahead of the fi­nal vic­tory push.

Re­searchers also found de­tails of a wed­ding be­tween a Ser­pent Kingdom princess and a king of La Corona, Bar­ri­en­tos said.

“This al­tar shows us a part of Gu­atemala’s his­tory and in this case, around 1,500 years ago, I would call this the his­tor­i­cal Mayan ver­sion of Game of Thrones,” he said, com­par­ing the Kaanul kingdom’s ma­noeu­vring to that in Game of Thrones of noble fam­i­lies com­pet­ing over con­trol of the seven king­doms.

Bar­ri­en­tos said the al­tar “fills in the gaps” and “pieces to­gether the puz­zle” of the Mayan cul­ture’s po­lit­i­cal re­la­tion­ships. “[It] teaches us a lot about pol­i­tics in those times and the fight for ter­ri­tory.”

Ex­ca­vat­ing and in­ves­ti­gat­ing in the re­mote Mayan Bio­sphere Re­serve where La Corona lies can be haz­ardous, though. The re­gion is at threat from loot­ing, in­va­sions and in­cur­sions by crim­i­nal gangs, drug-traf­fick­ers and il­le­gal ranch­ers.

Pho­to­graph: AFP

RE­VEAL­ING SE­CRETS: The an­cient Mayan al­tar find

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