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14 November 2012
'Oldest Mayan tomb' found in Guatemala

One of the oldest Mayan tombs ever found has been uncovered in western Guatemala, at the Tak'alik Ab'aj temple site in Retalhuleu province, some 180 kilometres south of Guatemala City. Carbon-dating indicates the tomb was built between 700 and 400 BCE.
     A rich array of jade jewels, including a necklace depicting a vulture-headed human figure, were found. The vulture-headed figure appears to identify the tomb's occupant as a ruler, because the symbol represented power and economic status and was given to respected elder men.
     "He was a big chief", said government archaeologist Miguel Orrego. "He bridged the gap between the Olmec and Mayan cultures in central America."
     The Olmec empire began to fade at around 400 BCE, while the Maya civilisation was starting to grow and develop, said Christa Schieber, another archaeologist working at the site. The Mayas went on to rule much of Central America from 250 to 800 CE; their empire extended from modern-day Honduras to central Mexico.

Edited from BBC News (26 October 2012)

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