Mayan Warrior Queen
Kalomt'e K'Abel was one of the great warrior queens of the Maya and bore the title Kaloomte which is Supreme Warrior. She is mostly forgotten because Mayan history is not very well known and is even now well hid in jungles. Archaeologists in Guatemala have now discovered the tomb of Lady K’abel, a seventh-century Maya Holy Snake Lord considered one of the great queens of Classic Maya civilization. The tomb was discovered during excavations of the royal Maya city of El Perú-Waka’ in northwestern Petén, Guatemala, by a team of archaeologists led by Washington University in St. Louis’ David Freidel, co-director of the expedition.
A small, carved alabaster jar found in the burial chamber caused the archaeologists to conclude the tomb was that of Lady K’abel.
The white jar is carved as a conch shell, with a head and arm of an aged woman emerging from the opening. The depiction of the woman, mature with a lined face and a strand of hair in front of her ear, and four glyphs carved into the jar, point to the jar as belonging to K’abel.
Freidel says the discovery is significant not only because the tomb is that of a notable historical figure in Maya history, but also because the newly uncovered tomb is a rare situation in which Maya archaeological and historical records meet.
"The Classic Maya civilization is the only classical archaeological field in the New World — in the sense that like archaeology in Ancient Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia or China, there is both an archaeological material record and an historical record based on texts and images," Freidel says.
El Perú (also known as Waka' ), is a pre-Columbian Maya archeological site occupied during the Preclassic and Classic (roughly 500 BC to 800 AD). The site was the capital of a Maya city-state located near the banks of the San Pedro River in the Department of Petén of northern Guatemala. El Perú is 37 miles west of Tikal.
Olivia Navarro-Farr, PhD, assistant professor of anthropology at the College of Wooster in Ohio, originally began excavating the locale while still a doctoral student of Freidel’s. Continuing to investigate this area this season was of major interest to both she and Freidel because it had been the location of a temple that received much reverence and ritual attention for generations after the fall of the dynasty at El Perú.
With the discovery, archaeologists now understand the likely reason why the temple was so revered: K’abel was buried there, Freidel says.
K’abel, considered the greatest ruler of the Late Classic period, ruled with her husband, K’inich Bahlam, for at least 20 years (672-692 AD), Freidel says. K’abel also is famous for her portrayal on the famous Maya Stela 34 of El Perú, now in the Cleveland Art Museum.
For further information see K'abel.
Conch image via El Peru Waka Regional Archaeological Project.