Archaeologists have recently uncovered the remains of a Mayan warrior queen in Guatemala, at the site of El Peru-Waka, an ancient city under excavation by Washington University. Excavations led by archaeologist David Freidel identified a tomb in the ruins of the city’s main pyramid temple, attributing it as likely belonging to military ruler Lady K’abel of the Wak—or “Centipede Kingdom”—between 672-692 A.D.
The body buried inside the tomb held a variety of numerous offerings, such as jade jewelry, stone figures, and ceramic vessels. Among those, the most important item found was a small alabaster jar carved to resemble a conch shell. The carving also includes a head and arms of an old woman, which appear to emerge from inside the shell.
The back of the alabaster jar holds distinct Mayan hieroglyphs that read “Lady Snake Lord” and “Lady Water Lily Hand,” both names which are thought to reference Lady K’abel. This military ruler governed with her husband, K’inich Bahlam, while her official title of “Kaloomte” translates as “supreme warrior”… showing that while she wasn’t the king, she actually had more power than he did in many affairs!
The skeleton itself, found within the tomb, wasn’t in the greatest condition, making it difficult for excavators to determine the gender and age of the individual. However, the features of the skull are distinct and resemble the well-recognized carved ancient portraits of the warrior queen, which is what led the team to name this as her tomb.
Queens of El Peru-Waka also wore very specific jewelry to denote their station—shells worn at girdle ornaments, for example—and this body’s torso held a red spiny oyster shell.
Unfortunately for the queen, the Wak kingdom eventually collapsed, but during its height there were numerous public plazas, temple pyramids, palaces, and many homes to house the large population.
Photo Credit: Photograph by El Peru Wake Regional Archaeological Project