Painted vault lid found depicting a serpent and the underworld

Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have discovered a painted vault lid at the Maya city of Ekʼ Balam.

Ekʼ Balam was a Maya city in the municipality of Temozón, Yucatán, Mexico. The city was occupied from the Middle Preclassic through the Postclassic, although it ceased to thrive as a major centre following the Late Classic.

The city consists of pyramidal platform temples, plazas, palaces, ballcourts, and a large central Acropolis. It is theorised that the city was hastily abandoned during a period of strife and great conflict.

Excavations conducted in the east-elevated plaza of the Acropolis has led to the discovery of a painted vault lid. The lid has a red “U”-shaped symbol, which according to the researchers is a representation of a cave, a possible allusion for the Maya underworld.

- Advertisement -

Similar examples of vault lids have been previously discovered in the Ekʼ Balam archaeological zone, providing archaeologists the names of several rulers of the city, in addition to information on construction dates of rooms in the royal palace and Acropolis.

The latest vault lid discovery also features the head and body of a serpent, which may be associated with K’awiil, a Maya god of lightning, serpents, fertility and maize.

According to Leticia Vargas de la Peña and Víctor Castillo Borges, Directors of the Ek’ Balam Archaeological Project: “This discovery provides new information about the builders of the elite enclosures of the east elevated plaza of the Acropolis, as well as evidence to date when they were erected.”

In February 2023, archaeologists conducting conservation works of the Acropolis announced the discovery of decorated architecture and ornamentation depicting a subdued  warrior captured in battle.


Header Image Credit : INAH

- Advertisement -
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.

Mobile Application


Related Articles

Study uses satellite imagery to identify over 1,000 Andean hillforts

A new study, published in the journal Antiquity, uses satellite imagery to survey hillforts known as pukaras in the Andean highlands.

Roman defensive spikes unveiled at the Leibniz Centre for Archaeology

In 2023, archaeologists from Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main uncovered a series of wooden defensive spikes during excavations of a 1st century AD Roman fort in Bad Ems, western Germany.

Obsidian blade linked to Coronado’s expedition to find the fabled city of gold

Archaeologists suggest that a flaked-stone obsidian blade could be linked to the expedition led by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado to search for the fabled city of gold.

Clay seal stamp from First Temple period found in Jerusalem

Archaeologists have discovered a clay seal stamp from the First Temple period during excavations in the Western Wall Plaza, Jerusalem.

Offering of human sacrifices found at Pozo de Ibarra

Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have uncovered an offering of human sacrifices at the Mexican town of Pozo de Ibarra.

Excavation uncovers preserved wooden cellar from Roman period

Archaeologists from the Frankfurt Archaeological Museum have uncovered a well-preserved wooden celler in Frankfurt, Germany.

Preserved temples from the Badami Chalukya era found in India

Archaeologists from the Public Research Institute of History, Archaeology, and Heritage (PRIHAH) have announced the discovery of two temples dating from the Badami Chalukya era.

Excavation of medieval shipbuilders reveals a Roman head of Mercury

Excavations of a medieval shipbuilders has led to the discovery of a Roman settlement and a Roman head of Mercury.