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Tulane archaeologists help unearth key Maya monuments

Archaeologists with the La Corona Regional Archaeological Project in Guatemala, who in 2012 discovered the second known reference to the so-called “end date” of the Maya calendar, have made more significant finds.

The project has announced significant hieroglyphic finds during a press conference at the National Palace in Guatemala City. The discoveries include a well-preserved Maya stela from the archaeological site of El Achiotal that dates to the 5th century AD.

“This stela portrays an early king during one of the more poorly understood periods of ancient Maya history,” saidMarcello A. Canuto, director of Tulane University’s Middle American Research Institute and co-director of the excavations at El Achiotal along with Tomás Barrientos of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala.

Tulane graduate student Luke Auld-Thomas, with funding from National Geographic Young Explorer’s Grant, uncovered a shrine that contained fragments of the broken stela. The ancient Maya had built the shrine to preserve this stela.

Epigrapher David Stuart of the University of Texas at Austin estimated the stela’s date to be November 22, AD 418, a time of great political upheaval in the central Maya area.


The La Corona team also found two more hieroglyphic panels in nearly pristine state.

“They even have much of the original sparkling red paint preserved,” Canuto said.

Tulane graduate student Maxime Lamoureux St-Hilaire discovered the panels in his excavations of La Corona’s palace. These panels had not been found by looters because they were installed in a small unassuming corner room of the palace. The panel inscriptions tell of rituals of kingly accession.

“The fact that the stela and these panels were preserved by the ancient Maya themselves long after they were first carved adds a new wrinkle to our interpretation of how much the ancient Maya valued and strove to preserve their own history,” Canuto said.

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