Ancient Mayan grave found in Mexico as tourist rail project advances

The finding is estimated to be more than 1,000 years old

The remains of a human burial, unearthed by Mexican archaeologists in Palenque. Reuters
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Mexican archaeologists unearthed a richly adorned human body in a grave that could be more than 1,000 years old. It was found in an area where workers were finishing construction on a major tourist rail project, the country's national antiquities institute Inah said on Monday.

The discovery took place this month during archaeological salvage work carried out in tandem with building a multibillion-dollar train in southern Mexico designed in large part to draw tourists to southern Mexico's many ancient Mayan sites, as well as nearby beach resorts such as Cancun and Tulum.

The rail project, known as the Maya Train, is a top economic development priority of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. It employs teams of relatively well-funded archaeologists who have rushed to complete excavations, so the construction work will not be delayed. Digs elsewhere in the country have suffered budget cuts.

The latest burial discovery took place during work on the construction of a hotel near the major Maya ruins of Palenque in Chiapas state, once home to one of the ancient civilisation's largest and most sophisticated urban centres.

The skeletal remains were found about 2km from the city's centre, home to towering temples and a sprawling palace compound, in a stone box. They likely belong to an elite resident of the city, known by the ancient Maya as Lakamha'.

The box also held three ceramic vessels, ear flares and a pair of greenstone beads.

Inah also noted that the individual was buried face up, his head facing north, adding that further tests are needed to determine the individual's exact age and other characteristics.

Scholars credit the ancient Maya with major human achievements in art, architecture, astronomy and writing.

Palenque, like dozens of other ancient cities, clustered around southern Mexico and parts of Central America, thrived from about 300 to 900 AD.

Updated: September 26, 2023, 6:14 AM