Mayan Mass Grave Uncovered at Uxul


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LiveScience reported last week that an excavation of an ancient Mayan city has yielded a 1400-year-old mass grave with 24 skeletons inside.

Nicolaus Seefield, the dig's coordinator and archaeologist at the University of Bonn in Germany, found the site after he was working on two massive reservoirs meant to store Mayan drinking water, also recently discovered.

Seefield wrote an email to LiveScience: "Right before 24 victims were buried, the cave's interior had doubtlessly still been used [as] a water reservoir, since the cave's floor was perfectly clean... After the 24 victims had been buried, the pre-Hispanic Maya covered the remains with a coarse layer of gravel and sealed it with a clay layer. Due to this sealing layer, the documented bones were found in an extraordinarily good state of preservation."

NatureWorldNews also covered the discovery. Spatial patterns on the bones indicate that all 24 people were decapitated and dismembered, with noticeable hatchet marks on the cervical vertibrae, and many of the skulls show signs of being hacked on by a sharp object, most likely a stone hatchet.

The bones were preserved in clay, so anthropologists were able to determine the ages and sexes of 15 of the skeletons, which included 13 men and two women who were between the ages of 18 and 42 at the time of death. Several of the corpses had malnutrition and some missing teeth.

The jade inserts in some of the skulls' teeth have been interpreted as high social status, but researchers are not certain whether the dead are nobles from Uxul or prisoners of war who were brought to Uxul for sacrifice.

Regardless of the skeletons' social standing, the discovery of physically mutilated remains at Uxul will have implications for studies of the Mayan civilization.

Prof. Dr. Nikoali Grube, also of the University of Bonn, said of the find that "The discovery of the mass grave proves that the dismemberment of prisoners of war and opponents often represented in Maya art was in fact practiced."

You can read the University of Bonn's press statement regarding the find here.

[Image via Nicolaus Seefeld/Uni Bonn]