Second largest Maya jade found in Belize has unique historical inscription

Jade was a precious stone to the ancient Maya who once inhabited Belize, and jade artifacts have been amongst the most important items discovered in ancient tombs. Proving that ancient Maya sites have yet to reveal all of their secrets, the second-largest piece of jade ever discovered in an ancient Maya site was recently unearthed by a team led by University of California San Diego archaeologist Geoffrey Braswell at the site of Nim Li Punit in Belize’s southern Toledo District.

Shaped like a square pendant and covered in hieroglyphics, the enormous carved pendant was first discovered in 2015 during a field expedition in Nim Li Punit. The pendant was designed to be worn on the chest of the king and measures 7.4 inches (19 cm) by 4.1 inches (10.5 cm). Measuring just 0.3 inches (0.7 cm) thick, shaping the pendant and carving the hieroglyphics without modern tools was an impressive technical feat.

Somehow escaping the predation of tomb robbers and curio collectors for more than 1,200 years, it is the 30 hieroglyphs carved on the jade pendant which have archaeologists excited. The hieroglyphs tell the story of king Janaab Ohl K’inich who ruled Nim Li Punit in the seventh century AD, giving historians unique insights into the Post-Classic period of the Maya that led to the abandonment of sites like Nim Li Punit before the arrival of the Europeans.

The carved jade pendant was discovered along with 25 pottery vessels and is believed to be offerings to the Maya god of wind some 100 years after the death of king Janaab Ohl K’inich. Since the pendant was not buried along with a body, it is believed that it was part of a series of offerings to the god of wind and fertile rains during a time of climate change and civil unrest.

“This latest discovery just goes to show that new archeological finds are happening all the time here in Belize,” said Julie Zelaya of Roam Belize. “Ancient Maya sites like Nim Li Punit are a great way to learn more about the rich history of this country and explore the enduring architectural prowess of the builders who erected amazing stone structures and crafted intricate carvings in remote sites surrounded by thick jungle.”

Roam Belize offers vehicle rentals, provides shuttle and private transfer services, bookings at the finest hotels, lodges, and resorts in the country, and organizes tours to top Maya sites like Nim Li Punit where the jade was discovered.

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