Washington: Exterior walls on a “painted pyramid” buried for centuries in the Mexican jungle have revealed a series of unusual Maya wall murals, complete with hieroglyphic captions, providing archaeologists with a priceless look at day-to-day life in the Mayan empire during 620 to 700 AD.
The murals, discovered in 2004 at the Maya site of Calakmul, depict ordinary people enjoying much more casual pursuits, according to the new, detailed description of the wall art.
“There’s really nothing like this in any of the (known) murals. These are totally unexpected,” Maya expert Michael D Coe, curator emeritus at Yale University’s Peabody Museum of Natural History, told the National Geographic News.
“This is everyday life with people who are not upper-crust Maya but rather people engaged in everyday activities,” he added.
The colourful artwork shows the clothing and jewellery worn by various social classes in Calakmul, one of the largest cities of the Classic Maya period, which lasted from 300 to 900 AD.
During this era, Calakmul was likely the capital of the Kan (Snake) Kingdom, which held great sway over the Maya world.
The murals also depict common foodstuffs as well as people involved in food preparation and distribution, including a “salt person” and a “tobacco person,” as they are labelled in the hieroglyphs.
Other scenes depict corn products that were essential to the Maya diet, like a woman distributing a platter of tamales to a crowd in one panel, while a man and woman in another scene serve maize gruel.
What’s more, the Calakmul murals’ exterior location surprised experts, since other murals were found secreted away inside pyramids.
“In other words, they were public,” Coe said of the Calakmul paintings. “They were to be seen by everybody,” he added.
Luckily for Maya scholars, the painted pyramid’s long burial helped preserve the unusual artwork.