Trove of Mayan jade and serpentine stones discovered

A trove of polished jade and serpentine artefacts were discovered in Ceibal, Guatemala, deposited in a singe cache. The ceremonial artefacts are dated to between 1000-450 BC, an early period of the Mayan culture.

Stone artefacts from the cache (by Takeshi Inomata)

A total of 18 cross-shaped caches were discovered, with a total of 72 polished greenstone objects. According to the researchers this is the largest single find of celts in the Mayan lowlands dating from the era. Among the items highly prized by pre-Columbian Mesoamerican people were objects carved in hard greenstone. The polished greenstone celts from Ceibal were manufactured from jade, metagabbro, serpentine and other metamorphic greenstone.

Artefacts from Ceibal (by Takeshi Inomata)

The artefacts were buried in caches in the central plaza of the settlement. They were placed close to large ceremonial structures, hinting that they held a ritual or ceremonial role in the culture. Archaeologists believe that the colour of the stones is thought to have spiritual significance for the early Mayans, as green was associated with the centre of the world. The analysis of the surfaces of the artefacts revealed that they weren’t systematically worn down by fabrics (suggesting that they weren’t worn as an ornament) but were rather used in ceremonies to establish the elites of the pre-classical Mayan society.

Cache within which the artefacts were found (by Takeshi Inomata)

The location of the finds indicate their potential significance as a majority of them were buried in a public plaza. It’s thought that they played a role in integrating the community and political negotiation among the society’s newly forming elite class. Many of them were buried aligned with the points of the compass. This becomes more pronounced in the later burials, suggesting a growing importance of the movement of the Sun among the Mayas.

Artefacts as found (left) and reconstructed as used (right) (by Takeshi Inomata)

(after Takeshi Inomata & International Business Times)

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