Mar 04, 2017 I Brett Tingley

Strange Jade Pendant Hints at Higher Mayan Mysteries

It’s been a massive year for Mayan discoveries. Archaeologists have announced several discoveries which could potentially rewrite our understanding of the Mayan civilization and history. Now, archaeologists from the University of California San Diego have announced another fascinating find that challenges much of our current knowledge about the Mayan Empire. The researchers were exploring a 400-year-old palace in the classic period Mayan archaeological site of Nim Li Punit in southern Belize, thought to be the southeasternmost point of the Mayan Empire. After opening a tomb in the palace, they came across a fascinating and once-in-a-career find: a massive jade pendant inscribed with mysterious hieroglyphs of unknown meaning.

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The pendant is believed to have been used in religious rituals.

The pendant measures 7.4 by 4.1 inches (18.8 by 10.4 cm) and is carved in the shape of the Mayan glyph “ik’,” meaning wind and breath.” The pendant was found in a similarly-shaped vessel along with broken effigies of the Mayan wind god. The researchers believe this highly ritualistic burial suggests that the burial was related to a ceremony intended to invoke Hunraqan, the god of wind.

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Hunraqan, or Huracan, is typically depicted as one-legged, and his name literally translates to "one legged."

In their published analysis of this priceless artifact, the researchers refer to the pendant as a “wind jewel” and speculate that it was used in desperate rituals to attempt to implore the wind god to bring rain to a parched land dessicated by climate change:

We cannot help but wonder if such a precious relic of the past was given a dedicatory burial because the rains brought by the wind god—and by his representative on earth, the divine king of Nim li Punit—were scarce and unpredictable.

The archaeologists analyzing the wind jewel are still unable to determine how it reached this particular site so far from the center of the Mayan Empire or conclude why the pendant was buried in such a manner. Even the pendant's construction is mysterious: researchers aren't sure how such precise holes could have been drilled through the pendant using the technology of the time.

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The location where the pendant was discovered.

Tentative translations of the jewel’s hieroglyphs have determined that the pendant was made for the Mayan king Janaab' Ohl K'inich in 672 CE in order to be used in ritual offerings to the wind god. 

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Several tablets at the site depict king Janaab’ Ohl K’inich performing incense ceremonies while wearing what appears to be the pendant.

The pendant also describes the king's bloodline and his ascension to the throne in the powerful and immense Maya city of Caracol far to the north. Researchers do not know how or why the pendant then ended up in the Nim Li Punit site far to the south.  With further analysis, this discovery could potentially shed light on the extent to which separate Mayan settlements were connected with one another or even prove the existence of a separate offshoot dynasty at the southern city.


Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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