Washington: A team of archeologists has discovered the tomb of a headless man adorned with jade beneath an ancient Mexican chamber famously painted with scenes of torture.
Found under the Temple of Murals at the Maya site of Bonampak, the man was either a captive warrior who was sacrificed-perhaps one of the victims in the mural-or a relative of the city`s ruler, scientists speculate.
Whoever he was, "the place of the burial tells us that the person buried there was special," anthropologist Emiliano Gallaga Murrieta told National Geographic News.
At the time of the murals`` creation, about AD 790, Bonampak was a city of thousands.
Today, its most prominent vestige is a long-overgrown, partially excavated acropolis in the middle of a vast tropical rain forest in the southern state of Chiapas.
Perched midway up the stepped acropolis, the Temple of Murals holds three elaborately painted rooms.
Room One depicts the presentation of a young heir.
Room Two, above the newfound tomb, is ringed with scenes of the torture of captive warriors-broken fingers, torn-out fingernails, heads without bodies.
Room Three includes paintings of an elite bloodletting ritual.
Discovered by the outside world in 1946, the Bonampak murals eviscerated scholars`` long-held belief in an ancient Maya Empire ruled by kindly astronomer-priests.
The new tomb find may only add to the aura of violence.
The tomb itself is "simple"-just large enough to hold a body and covered with a slab of plain, white plaster, according to Gallaga.
Preliminary analysis of the skeleton indicates it belonged to a 35- to 42-year-old man with a type of arthritis.
His skull, though not his lower jaw, is missing.
"The victim may have been beheaded-a common practice in ancient Maya warfare," Gallaga said.
But "our money goes to disintegration by humidity and natural erosion," he said, noting that "head bones are relatively less hard than the rest."
Also, jade earrings were on the ground, positioned as if they had fallen from long-gone ears-another clue the skull may have disintegrated in place.
The valuable jade earrings, along with a jade necklace and bracelets, remain in place.
The deceased also wore a pendant made from the shell of a Spondylus, or spiny oyster-"a highly appreciated shell among the high-class during pre-Hispanic times for its orange-purple color," Gallaga said.
The tomb artifacts suggest he was s an elite.
"The paraphernalia found in this burial could lead us to think that (he) is a high-class warrior" from an opposing group who was sacrificed at a ceremony dedicating the temple, according to Gallaga.