On an expedition to explore Mayan ruins in northwestern Guatemala, archaeologists stumbled upon something unexpected. It was presumed to be a temple, but in reality it turned out to be a facade for a hidden pyramid, 85 feet square at the base, and 25 feet high.
Once the debris was cleared away it was found in near perfect condition. Four stairways, one on each side, ran to the top. "Colossal masks of fine lime stucco guarded the stairs, the upper pairs in the likeness of grotesque human heads, the lower pairs the heads of serpents." It shone in a silver light under the rays of the sun, just as they did when enclosed by ancient builders.
It was believed the temple was hidden at the beginning of the Christian era. Why did they cover it so well? Rubble had been cast over it and then large stone blocks were built around it. These formed the inner walls of a temple. This building appeared to be used as a point of observation in a huge sun-dial of which other remote buildings were parts. This was used to note the equinox and the solstice, and also the transit of Venus which was used in the Maya's astronomical calculation.
Was there something that forbade the builders to destroy it? Some reason so important that they chose to hide it instead.
The top of an earlier pyramid was covered with a floor of hard, white plaster painted red. When opened, three oblong openings were found measuring five feet deep and lined with untrimmed stones. In the middle was the headless skeleton of a woman, laying face down with her feet pointed west.. The bones were well preserved and indicated she was in her early twenties. Beside her were six empty pots.
The grave on the left had pottery filled with obsidian, shells and seeds. There was also a sharp obsidian dagger.
Was she a Mayan princess who used the dagger to kill an enemy, or perhaps a husband? Perhaps she was a priestess, queen or someone the priests scarified in a time of war or famine to appease the gods. Whatever the story, she was entombed in a pyramid. However like in other cultures, the Maya cut off the heads of hated corpses.
In the Warrior's Temple at Chichen Itza which was rebuilt in the 1920s, a disc made of turquoise was discovered. Archaeologists cleared the room of refuse starting at the foundation walls. In an east room the unmistakable sign of an altar that had been torn away was found.
Dr. Earl Morris (which Indiana Jones is based on), cut into the floor and his pick hit an object of a different material. He exposed a limestone, cylindrical jar. It measured 15 inches in diameter and one foot high. Inside, face up lay a mosaic disk made up of carefully cut pieces of highly polished turquoise.
On the face of the disc were the bones of a bird, a polished ball of jadeite and parts of a necklace. The jadeite balls were known to be used by the Maya priests for the purpose of divination.
Another discovery was a stone face found at Chichen Itza close to a building called the Citadel, a temple built to the Kukulkan, the Feathered Serpent god. It had a strange Asian cast.
The origins of the Maya is unknown. Some believed they were originally Asiatics but their own traditions told they came from the east.
ABOUT EARL MORRIS
The name of Earl H. Morris is well known in Southwestern archaeology. Although he also did considerable archaeological work in Central America, particularly at the Temple of the Warriors at Chichen Itza in Yucatan, trying to unravel the story of the prehistoric inhabitants of the American Southwest was always his first love.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by Marlene Pardo Pellicer