Posted: Wednesday, June 15, 2016. 10:28 pm CST.
By Dalila Ical.: The Department of Archaeology has made an important discovery at Xunantunich, the “Stone Woman”, which sheds new light as to the city’s history and how it became one of the most important and powerful in the region.
The discovery was made by excavators from the department and Northern Arizona University. They presented their findings which included two Stelae on Tuesday to the press.
Dr. John Morris, Director of Archaeology said that these were found at two small temples at the south eastern end of the site. One of the stelae is large and carved and the other a panel.
“It’s actually a panel and we labelled it panel number three because we have two other panels already here on the site. And the panel is fascinating because the panel has on it hieroglyphic inscriptions. It has a set of four glyphs there and those glyphs tell us a story,” Dr. Morris said.
That “very intriguing” story dates back to a specific date found on the stone, December 2nd 638 AD. “It commemorates the death of a woman and her name is Lady Baz’ek and she was literally the wife of the ruler of Caracol at that particular point in time, Lord Kantu. And Lord Kantu is famous for his military exploits. He, Caracol was, at the time defeated a lot of the major sites in the area, major cities like Tikal, Naranjo. Caracol had defeated those sites. And they had done so because they were able to join forces with another big site, Calakmul. Lady Baz’ek is actually from Calakmul,” he recounts.
And Lady Baz’ek’s birthplace makes the story even more interesting as she was found at Xunantunich, a place far from home. The stone, Dr. Morris said ended at Xunantunich after the great city of Carcaol finally crumbled at the feet of rival cities, Naranjo and Okanal with the help of Xunantunich. The stairway panel at Caracol was taken by the invaders and split among the other cities. “So even in antiquity, you have geopolitics; you have cities aligning with each other to fight with each other, to conquer each other. And so this is, this finally tells us the remaining puzzle why Xunantunich, in the late terminal classic which would be 6, 700 to 900, why Xunantunich became such a powerful city in this area,” Dr. Morris said.
Dr. Morris and his team have been, over the years, doing excavations on three temples at the site to expose it and have a uniformed look for visitors and also to help them understand the magnitude of the site.
“It’s a pain staking process. It takes us a long time for us to even uncover one of these buildings because sometimes you’re talking about centuries and centuries of debris and soil that has covered these buildings,” Dr. Morris adds.
The mound where the Stelae were found is eight meters tall. There, excavators also found pottery and bones.
It is also an expensive endeavour and so while the work to raise funds is hard, the department also teams up with students of universities to assist in getting the work done. The process also provides some jobs for locals around the site.
Minister of State for Culture Elodio Aragon says that while the work is expensive he supports the efforts as it supports the tourism industry. “We have that history here in Belize but it needs to be unearthed and these are the kind of work that needs to be done if we are going to begin to add value to these Mayan sites across the country… this is our heritage…yes, they cost money but at the end of the day I believe there is so much more that this country can derive from our heritage especially when you look at the Mayas”.
Dr. Morris says they are hoping that there is more exciting discoveries to make as they continue their exploration at the site.
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