Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Archaeologist Hansen Unveils Frieze at El Mirador

A group of archaeologists led by Richard Hansen, who discovered the frieze representing the twin heroes of the Popul Vuh, Hunapú and Ixbalanqué, revealed it to the public on Sunday. The frieze was built about 300 years before Christ in the El Mirador archaeological site, in the north of Petén.

Hansen, director of the El Mirador Basin project and who coordinates the group of archaeologists-mostly Guatemalans, who work at that site, reported the discovery of a part of the Mayan sacred book, the Popul Vuh.

The frieze is about four meters long and three meters high, and was built in limestone and stucco.

This find is very important because it proves that Ixbalanqué and Hunapú existed 300 years before Christ, confirming that they are purely a product of the Mayan civilization.

"Some do not give credibility to the Popul Vuh because they say it has Christian influence, but this find demonstrates that the Mayan culture was already aware of the Popol Vuh story in 300 BC," he said.

Hansen pointed out that the oldest copy of the Popol Vuh dates from 1700, when the Spanish friar Francisco Jiménez found a document written by the Maya and translated it. So it was felt that this book had a lot of Christian influence.

Hansen described the frieze as illustrating the story of the two twins swimming after rescuing the head of their father, Hun Hunapú, after he was deceived and decapitated by the gods of the underworld.

The frieze was a lucky find when archaeologists were trying to locate the site of water storage cisterns and channels used at El Mirador because there are no nearby rivers.

The expert explained that the major discoveries about the Maya at Mirador date from 200 to 150 BC, such as the famous La Danta pyramid, considered one of the largest in the ancient world in terms of volume, along with 45 other sites.

La Danta, which is not yet fully uncovered, is thus far the largest built by the Mayans. It is 300 meters wide by 600 meters long and reaches a height of 72 meters.

"The Mirador Basin is the beginning of the Mayan culture, which began a thousand years before the development of Tikal," he added.

Hansen reported that the archeological operations at El Mirador require a budget of U.S. $2.7 million a year to continue.