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Tuesday, 26 September, 2000, 07:21 GMT 08:21 UK
Scientists 'find lost Mayan king'
Map of Honduras
By Central America correspondent Mike Lanchin

Scientists in the Central American republic of Honduras have unearthed what they believe could be the remains of one of the rulers of the Mayan dynasty.

The relics were found on Monday at a recently discovered archaeological site in the west of the country less than two miles from the ancient Mayan city of Copan.

This is the first major breakthrough in digging in the area, which was first come upon only two months ago when workmen were carrying out major road repairs nearby.

The site, which measures around 20,000 square metres, is believed to be an extension to the mighty city of Copan, which until now has been the best known archaeological site in Honduras.

The area contains evidence of 27 buildings, believed to be the houses of some of Copan's residents, as well as ten different tombs.

Ancient bones

On top of one of the tombs, scientists discovered a cranium, femur and pectoral bones as well as a kneecap encrusted with jade, all of which are thought to belong to one of Copan's 16 known rulers.

Mayan ruins
The Mayan civilisation is believed to have lasted 1000 years
Archaeologists are convinced that the abundance of ceramics and other artefacts close by indicate the importance of the person or persons buried there.

They believe the tomb was set in a courtyard used for ritual ceremonies to which ordinary Mayans would not have had access.

Once the tomb is fully opened, they expect to find the remains of other members of royalty inside.

Dates debated

But experts are still debating over the exact period to which the tomb and its occupants would have belonged.

Archaeological dig
Another significant find was made in Guatemala recently
Relics found at the site come from the sixth or seventh century, but some of the ceramics near the grave could date back as far as 400 BC.

The Mayan dynasty spread across the territory of four modern-day Central American nations as well as Mexico and lasted for more than 1000 years.

Earlier this month experts digging in the jungle of northern Guatemala unearthed evidence of a huge new Mayan city previously ignored by archaeologists.

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See also:

09 Sep 00 | Americas
Lost Mayan palace found in Guatemala
26 Sep 00 | Americas
Tribes win ancient bones battle
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