General Stunning jade mask found inside the tomb of a mysterious Maya king


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Choked by rainforest and crowded with fallen leaves, palms, and chunks of stone, the little-known site of Chochkitam, Guatemala, seems an unlikely place for a breathtaking archaeological find—much less one that reveals new information about a still murky time period that’s long baffled researchers.

But that’s exactly what researchers recently discovered at the site, in the form of a mysterious, interlocking jade mask believed to have belonged to a previously unknown Maya king.

The find tells a fascinating story of religious devotion and royal succession during the early Classic period of the Maya nearly 1,700 years ago. But it also gives credence to a growing theory that Maya royals of the era may have been in the thrall of even more powerful Mesoamerican dynasties.

“It’s a very controversial subject,” says archaeologist and National Geographic Explorer Francisco Estrada-Belli. “The mask is one more nail in the coffin” of old interpretations of Maya history, he says.

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